COLLEGE COMPASS -- College Preparation Test SAT Tips


Preparing for the SAT!
When to Take the SAT!
SAT Test Schedule and Fees!


The SAT is a three-hour standardized test broken down into six sections:


Different schools will look at your SATs in different ways. .Some, especially state schools, may simply have mini- mum grade and SAT requirements, beyond which they : might have almost no other formal admissions demands. Others, especially the more selective ones, will look at your SATs as part of a total package. But the more selec- tive schools generally have higher ranges of SAT scores for the students they accept for admission.

Schools will distinguish between your verbal and your math scores. A more technical school like MIT, for example, looks for high math ratings. Their most recent profile shows that only 20% of students admitted scored above 700 on their verbal SATs, while 75% scored over 700 on the math section. If you are applying to the liberal arts college of a school like Johns Hopkins, they will be more interested in your verbal score.


Often schools requiring the SAT II are flexible in which tests are required for admittance. Many require three Subject Test scores in addition to the regular SAT I, one of which must be the SAT II: Writing test. The other choices are of the discretion of the student.


Your scores are one of five major factors affecting your admission to college: (1) which classes you have taken in high school (including how many of these are Advanced Placement or honors classes), (2) the grades you received in those classes, (3) your rank in your class, (4) your extra- curricular activities, and (5) your SATs and achievement test results.

These factors will be weighted differently, depending on your profile, on the needs of the school to which you are applying, and on the other students with whom you are competing the year that you apply. A special talent in sports, music, or art or the like may outweigh a low SAT score. A lower score than the median SAT score of a col- lege you have applied to does not mean you will not be accepted--a median score range is just that, a median SAT score, not a minimum requirement.It is obviously to your advantage to score as high as possible, but remember that standardized test scores are but one factor in the ad- missions process.


The SATs have traditionally been scored from 200 (low) to 800 (high). But because of an error range of 30 points, plus or minus, scores are now being reported differently. Whereas in the past you would have received only a single score--say, 550-now you will receive that score plus an indication on your report that the score falls somewhere between 520 and 580. This range reflects the fact that peo- ple can perform differently on different days, and ac- knowledges that an SAT gives only a general idea of a person's aptitude, not a fixed measurement.


As we've discussed, different schools have different stan- dards for median SATs. (Median means that half the SAT scores have fallen above the median and half below.) You can use the following ranges of SAT scores at different schools to get an idea of which colleges are looking for scores in your range. Divide the schools you are interested in into "Reach" (those schools that would be very difficult for you to get into, on the basis of your scores), "Range" (those schools where your chances of getting in are about fifty-fifty or sixty-forty), and "Safety" (those schools you are virtually certain to get into). (Where no percentages are given, the figure is a me- dian score.)

Most Competitive

Amherst: 66% scored above 600 verbal; 83% scored above 600 math
Brown: 630 verbal; 670 math
Bryn Mawr: 70% scored above 600 verbal; scored above 600 math
Columbia: 630 verbal; 660 math
Cornell: 587 verbal; 652 math
Dartmouth: 620 verbal; 670 math
Duke: 606 verbal; 657 math
Georgetown: 616 verbal; 657 math
Harvard: 50% scored above 600 verbal; 50% scored above 600 math
Haverford: 67% scored above 600 verbal; 86% scored above 600 MATH
MIT: 72% scored above 600 verbal; 97% scored above 600 MATH
Northwestern: 590 verbal; 650 MATH
Oberlin: 600 verbal; 616 MATH
Princeton: 649 verbal; 695 MATH
Rice: 620 verbal; 679 MATH
Stanford: 620 verbal; 670 MATH
University of Chicago: 620 verbal; 645 MATH
University of Pennsylvania: 600 verbal; 670 MATH
Wesleyan: 620 verba~ 650 MATH
Williams: 624 verbal; 662 MATH
Yale: 660 verbal; 680 MATH

Very Competitive

Alfred: 500 verbal; 550 MATH
Babson: 510 verbal; 600 MATH
Bard: 560 verbal; 520 MATH
Brandeis: 580 verbal; 610 MATH
Carlelon: 610 verbal; 640 MATH
Carnegie-Mellon: 580 verbal; 685 MATH
Case Western: 548 verbal; 636 MATH
Clark University: 530 verbal; 570 MATH
Colby: 560 verbal; 600 MATH
Emery: 550 verbal; 600 MATH
Franklin and Marshall: 565 verbal; 593 MATH
Kenyon: 560 verbal; 570 MATH
Lafayette: 560 verbal; 630 MATH
Lehigh: 560 verbal; 650 MATH
Middlebury: 600 verbal; 620 MATH
Mount Holyoke: 590 verbal: 590 MATH
Trinity(CT): 560 verbal; 590 MATH
Tufts: 575 verbal; 632 MATH
University of California (Berkeley): 532 verbal; 607 MATH
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor): 550 verbal: 620 MATH
University of Notre Dame: 560 verbal; 630 MATH
University of Virginia: 580 verbal; 630 MATH
Washington University: 560 verbal; 620 MATH


Baylor: 480 verbal; 540 MATH
Boston College: 509 verbal; 557 MATH
Clemson: 471 verbal; 542 MATH
Colorado State: 466 verbal; 524 MATH
Denison: 500 verbal; 535 MATH
Drexel: 500 verbal; 580 MATH
George Washington University: 530 verbal; 560 MATH
Hollins: 510 verbal; 510 MATH
Lake Forest: 520 verbal; 540 MATH
Miami University of Ohio: 500 verbal; 560 MATH
Mills: 520 verbal; 520 MATH
New York University: combined score: of 1100 Penn State: 510 verbal; 565 MATH
Purdue: 465 verbal; 540 MATH
Sarah Lawrence: 520 verbal; 500 MATH
Skidmore: 530 verbal; 540 MATH
University of the South: 535 verbal; 565 MATH
Wheaton(MA): 530 verbal; 540 MATH


There are many ways to prepare for the SATs. COLLEGE COMPASS provides you with Sample Test to print and a computerized test to take. You may also consider buying one of the many handbooks published by educa- tional publishers. These include sample tests, often of the same or similar length as the actual SAT, and will help ,you to become more familiar with the test. As with the PSAT, you will want to study the sample tests, if only to become familiar with the format of the questions and the directions. Be sure you understand what the questions mean and how to follow the directions. Once you are com- fortable with the format, you will be free to concentrate on the content of the questions themselves.

You can prepare for the SATs by yourself or with friends. Studying vocabulary lists is very helpful; a review of basic math can also help. Reviewing old grammar tests from your high school classes or studying a grammar text might be useful for the verbal section. Taking the sample tests should give you an idea of the areas in which you need to work hardest.

Many cities around the country have college board coaching classes. These are usually given in six-week ses- sions that meet twice a week. Class fees, which can range anywhere from $250 to $600, usually include workbooks. These classes should be carefully checked through your school to make sure that they are legitimate. Many schools offer their own coaching classes.

You should know that estimates of how much good these classes do vary depending on who is doing the esti- mating. The College Board, which supervises the tests. believes that these courses add only about 10 or 20 points to your scores, although the companies offering the courses may promise gains of 25 to 125 points on each aptitude test. Control groups taking an SAT a second time without extra coaching have often shown increases as great as those of the students who got special help. On the other hand, if you feel that taking a course will decrease your anxiety, it might be a good investment for that rea- son alone. Look at your PSAT scores, consider your other admissions factors and make the decision that is right for you.

Finally, if you are still concerned about your perfor- mance on the SAT, you might consider hiring a tutor. This is the most expensive option of all--up to $40 an hour. Studying with a tutor might have some advantage over a class simply because the tutor can focus on your par- ticular strengths and weaknesses. You will have to decide if a tutor's benefits will be great enough to outweigh the costs.

In any case, no amount of tutoring or classroom coaching will make much difference unless you commit yourself to a follow-up schedule of work between classes. Simply attending a course will not do much for your scores; it is the homework and study you do between coaching sessions that will bring you extra points.


You should start preparing for the SAT about three months before the exam . I suggest you put aside half an hour a day for reading. Reading will strengthen your sense of grammar and sentence construction and will help to build vour vocabulary. Read as broadly as possible, in cluding nineteenthcentury classics as well as contempo rary authors. I have included a suggested reading list in this book for your to use as a starting point. In addition to the half hour of nonschool assigned reading, read the edi torial page of a good daily newspaper, as well as a good news magazine, to add to your vocabulary and compre hension skills.

The SATs are given five times a year in November, ;January, March, May, and June . Most students should take them in May of their junior year so that they will have as much high school as possible behind them while still leaving time to take the tests again if necessary in November of the senior year. The November date of your senior year is the last possible date you can take the SAT for earlydecision college deadlines. A May test in your senior year also gives you time to take advantage of what you have learned from taking the PSAT in the fall of your junior year.


Test Date Test Offered Reg. Deadline Late Reg. Deadline
December 2 SAT I/SAT II October 27 Oct. 28 - Nov. 8
January 27 SAT I/SAT II December 21 Dec. 22 - Jan. 3
March 23 SAT I Only February 16 February 17 - 28
May 4 SAT I/SAT II March 29 Mar. 30 - Apr. 10
June 1 SAT I/SAT II April 26 April 27 - May 8


SAT I: Reasoning Test $21.50
SAT II: Subject Test $18.00
SAT II: Subject Test $23.00
SAT II: Subject Test $28.00


Make sure you have gotten a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Do not get more sleep than usual, however; that might make you more tired. Eat whatever kind of breakfast you usually eat not so much that you will want to sleep your way through the exam and not so little that all you’ll be able to think about is food. Some people like to bring a piece of fruit or a roll with them to eat during the breaks.

Bring all your supplies to the test site four Number 2 pencils, one or two good erasers, and an accurate wrist watch. The proctor will be timing the test, but you may want to know where you are every ten minutes or so to keep rom lingering too long in any one part of the test. Get to the exam site at least fifteen minutes early you will not have to worry about the time and you will start the test in a more relaxed frame of mind. When it is time to begin, take three deep, slow breaths before you even pick up your pencil. This will help you to relax and focus on the work ahead. Finally, be confident! These tests count, but it is not a doordie situation. You will be amazed later in life at how few people ask you what you got on your SATs! Just do your best and do not worry.


You should get your test results back within six weeks. Now is the time to evaluate your results and decide on your next move.

First, compare your scores to the ones listed in the catalogs of the colleges in which you are most interested. If you are more than 100 points below these scores on each test, you should probably start considering other schools closer to your SAT range. If you are only slightly out of range, or if you think you could do better, you might want to consider taking the SAT a second time. Most schools consider only the better scores of the two; some average both scores.

Statistics show that the lower you scored, the better your chances of improvement on a second try. If you scored in the 700s, chances are your score may go down on a second attempt. If you scored in the 600s, your score might get somewhat better, depending on how much work you do and on how your testtaking skills improve. What ever your score, ask yourself the following questions as you decide whether to retake the SAT: How do my scores compare to those at the colleges of my choice? Where did I do badly? Was there one specific area that I could work on to improve? How could I have done better? Was it simply a matter of being less nervous:, Being more familiar with the test! Did I have trouble with the time limit? If you think your problem was in one of these areas, it might be worth taking the test a second time, putting in some practice in the areas where you need it. If you are happy with your scores, another test might not be worth it. As with the coaching, the decision is up to you. It is probably not a good idea to take the SAT three times. Your score is unlikely to improve enough to make the extra effort and expense worthwhile. Low scores do not necessarily spell doom for your college plans. You can always redirect your energies into good work in your courses, your extracurricular activities, and your other areas of interest. If you are concerned about your SATs, figure out how to present yourself in an application that will convince an admissions committee to give the scores less weight in favor of outstanding work in another area. You do have to live with your scores and must deal with them as gracefully and constructively as you can.

Return to SAT Page

Return to College Test Page
Copyright 1995 - 1997 -- Educational On-Line Inc.