SAT Syllabus (Updated 2020-21)

SAT Exam Syllabus

Many students wish to pursue their education after 12th grade from a university abroad. The decision is mainly motivated by the availability of better courses abroad and better opportunities after the completion of the course. If you are someone who is looking at undergraduate courses and colleges, most universities will expect you to have a good SAT score. Before preparing for any examination, it is important that you are well versed in the syllabus. Once you know the SAT exam syllabus you will be able to prepare better and ace the test. Here is all the information you will need about the SAT syllabus and what type of questions are asked in the exam!

SAT Exam & Its Types

The SAT exam is a standardized test that helps universities examine where a candidate stands in a more objective manner. The test is a good criterion for universities and examiners to figure out how well prepared you are for college as well as get a better idea about the skills you’ve developed in school. This exam is classified into two types, i.e. SAT Subject Test and SAT General Test.

SAT General Test

Mainly taken by students wanting to get admission into undergraduate programmes, SAT General Test aims to evaluate candidates on their written, verbal and mathematical skills. As the name suggests, the SAT syllabus for the General Test assesses the general knowledge as well as critical reasoning.

SAT Subject Test

Focusing on particular disciplines or subject areas, there are total of 20 subject tests which are bifurcated into 5 subject areas, namely, Languages, History, English, Mathematics and Science. These subject areas are divided into a specific topics that are evaluated through a subject test.

SAT Exam Pattern 2020

The total duration of the examination is 3 hours and an additional 50 minutes if you opt for the essay. The test scores range between 400 and 1600 points. The exam syllabus is bifurcated into 4 sections, these include Reading, Writing and Language, Mathematics, and an Optional Essay. Take a look at the following table which elucidates the SAT exam pattern in detail.

Sections in
SAT Syllabus
Time AllottedTasks/Questions
MathematicsWith Calculator- 55
No Calculator- 25
38 (With 8 Grid-in)
20 (With 5 Grid-in)
Essay (Optional)501
With Essay: 230
With Essay: 155

SAT Syllabus 2020: Section-wise Breakdown

Now that you are familarized with the paper pattern of this exam, let’s elaborate upon the Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Essay section of the SAT exam syllabus and what they aim to assess:

  • Reading
    Comprising of reading comprehension, every passage under this section has 10-11 questions. Having a total of 5 passages of varying lengths, this section aims to evaluate your ability to comprehend written text, understand the meaning of words in different contexts as well as their associated terms with implied meanings.
  • Writing
    Having 4 passages with 10-11 questions each, you are expected to find errors, rephrase, and rewrite highlighted sentences with alternative text, amongst others. It focuses on assessing the candidate’s understanding of vocabulary as well as grammar.
  • Mathematics
    Constituted of two sub-sections divided into the 25-minute section provided with no calculator and a 55-minute section with a calculator allowed. It has 58 questions spread across varied basics of mathematics such as algebra, statistics, geometry, arithmetic, probability, data interpretation, and problem-solving questions.
  • Essay (Optional)
    Aiming to analyse one’s quality of writing as well as English comprehension, this section has an essay question (650-700 words) focusing on an issue and asking the candidate to take a stance on one side of the topic. Make sure you keep your analysis limited to the given data with precise explanation and don’t elaborate upon personal opinions.

SAT Exam Syllabus: Writing Section

The questions in this section of the SAT syllabus will test your evidence-based reading and writing skills, it consists mainly of 4 passages that are followed by 44 MCQ’s. In a 35-minute duration, you will be expected to comprehend the passages and answer accordingly.

The topics for the articles or write-ups are mainly centred on generic topics that do not necessitate your prior knowledge of the subject. In fact, certain passages have supplementary graphs and charts to assess your imperative skills. The passages revolve around topics like,

  • Humanities
  • Science
  • Careers
  • History & Arts
  • Social Sciences
Types of Questions Asked

You will be expected to answer certain questions pertaining to the passages, some examples of the questions asked in the writing section of the SAT exam syllabus are:

  • Sentence structure, verb tense, punctuation, parallel construction, grammar usage, subject-verb agreement, etc.
  • Strengthen/weaken the argument
  • Word choice for style, text or tone
  • Structural changes to improve readability

SAT Reading Section Syllabus

This section of the SAT exam syllabus focuses on evidence-based reading and writing. Over a 65-minute duration, you will be expected to read 4-5 passages and answer 52 questions that follow it. Along with the writing section, the SAT scores for these section range from 200-800 points. There are approximately 10-12 MCQs after every passage in this section taken from:

  • Classics or contemporary texts of the US or world literature
  • Texts from the constitution or the establishment of the US
  • Extracts from Economics, Sociology, Psychology, amongst others.

This questions of this aspect of the SAT Exam syllabus are mainly centered around the following:

  • The function a phrase serves in the passage
  • The tone, style, perspective, and attitude of the author 
  • Analyzing data on the basis of diagrams, charts, and graphs  
  • The central theme or main idea of the passage
  • Inference of a phrase in a paragraph 
  • Arguments or evidence that supports the author’s stance

Useful Tips: The format of the examination does not expect prior knowledge of the passage topics from you but with constant practice, you can develop a familiarity which will help you in answering the reading and writing sections of the SAT exam syllabus more effectively.

SAT Mathematics

Most students fear the mathematics section of competitive exams, but if you have a fair idea of what this part of the SAT exam syllabus comprises of, then you will be able to prepare for it in an effective manner. The mathematics section is divided into two parts – one with a calculator and another section that students need to solve without using a calculator.

The mathematics section without permitted calculator use consists of 20 questions that need to be answered in a duration of 25 minutes whereas the section with permitted calculator use consists of 38 questions over a 55-minute duration. This section’s score ranges from 200-800 points. Further, this is focused around 3 core areas, these include-

Algebra-Graphical representation of the linear function
-Linear equations with rational coefficients
-Linear inequalities in two variables and their systems
-System of linear equations
(with no solution, infinite or finite solutions)
Data Analysis & Problem Solving-Percentages
-Ratio and Proportion
-Unit conversion
-Equation of line or curve using a scatterplot
-Two-way tables to calculate conditional frequencies
and conditional probabilities
-Association of variables or independence of events
-Estimation of a population parameter
-Calculation of mean, median, mode, range and
deviation in statistics
-Evaluation of reports to check the appropriateness of
data collection methods
Advanced Math-Quadratic equations with rational coefficients
-Determining the form of an expression
-Polynomial equations (subtraction, multiplication,
addition and division)
-Zeros and factors of polynomials
-Non-linear relationship between two variables
-Function notation
-Isolation of a variable by rearrangement of formula or

Useful Tips: The only way to ace the math section is through consistent practice of the various topics of the syllabus. Since math is based heavily on practical knowledge it is important that your basics of the concepts are absolutely clear.

Essay (Optional)

  • While the essay component in the examination is optional, many universities expect you to score well in this section as well. Many universities also have it listed as a required or recommended section. 
  • The essay section of the SAT syllabus helps the university determine your reading, writing, and analytical skills simultaneously.
  • This section is panned out in a manner where you will be expected to read a 650-700 words long passage, after reading the passage you will have to analyze how the author builds the argument and write it in a coherent manner in a 50-minute duration.

Useful Tips

  • While preparing for this section, it is important that you understand how to develop an analytical approach to reading the paragraph so that you can write an analysis that is not tainted by your personal opinion or bias. 
  • This can only be mastered through continuous practice. Also, by engaging with articles of different authors helps you get a better idea about how different authors build their arguments.

SAT Exam Preparatory Essentials

Once you have a fair idea of the SAT syllabus, you will need certain resources that will help you prepare better for the examination. Here is a list of major books for SAT preparation that you must have:

FAQs for SAT Syllabus

Q1: What is SAT exam syllabus?

SAT Exam comprises of Reading, Writing, Mathematics and an optional essay section. Candidates need to cover each section thoroughly in order to cover up the entire syllabus for the exam.

Q2: Is SAT very difficult?

SAT is not a very difficult exam but one it is not very easy either. As it is considered as one of the most reliable examinations for UG admissions abroad, one needs to take it seriously and prepare well for the same. 

Q3: What is the eligibility for SAT exam?

SAT Exam requires no age limit. Anyone can appear for this exam. The best time to appear for the SAT exam is when you are a high-school student, i.e. in 10th or 11th class.

Q4: What are the best books for SAT Exam?

There are various books available for the SAT Exam, but, only when you refer to the best ones, you are likely to get a better understanding of each section. Keeping that in mind, we are curated an exclusive blog on best books for SAT preparation.

Q5: What type of questions are asked in SAT?

There are majorly 4 sections in SAT, i.e. Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Essay (optional). The Reading section comprises of 5 comprehension passages while the Writing section contains 4 passages. On the other hand, the SAT syllabus for Maths is divided into two sections, one with calculator and the other with no calculator. There are 38 questions in the Math section with permitted calculator use while 20 questions in the one without permitted calculator use. The optional essay section of SAT comprises a long 650-700 word passage which the candidates needs to summarise in a concise manner in 50 minutes.

While we have provided you with all the necessary information about the SAT syllabus which will help you in preparing for the exam from a more informed place, we understand that the study abroad process can seem scary and confusing at first. But you don’t have to prepare for the examination with doubts in your mind, Leverage Edu help clarify every doubt that stands between you and your dreams!

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