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SAT Information and Statistics


The SAT is essentially a reasoning test used to evaluate college candidates in an “objective”, unbiased way. The SAT, unlike high school academic tests, is not a place to demonstrate accumulated knowledge, and high school alone does not prepare a student for a good score on the SAT. The SAT is neither an IQ test nor a measure of academic potential. However, because higher scores on the SAT significantly increase a student’s college options, learning about and preparing to take the SAT is an extremely important pare of the college admissions process.


The SAT, which no longer stands for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”, is produced by a private company call the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the same people who produce and administer the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT Subject Tests, and other standardized tests and test preparation products. The SAT is taken by an average of 2 million students each year from 23,000 high schools across the country.


The New SAT, first implemented in 2006, is effectively a college admissions test that measures a student’s reasoning skills in the areas of Reading Comprehension, Math, and Writing. The major difference between the New and Old SAT is that there are now three, rather than two, sections, each scored on a scale between 200 and 800. The Verbal Section on the Old SAT has been split into the autonomous sections of Reading Comprehension and Writing on the New SAT. The Math Section is a total of 70 minutes long, and consists of multiple choice and student-generated questions from the subject areas of Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra I, and Algebra II (graphing or scientific calculator encouraged). The Critical Reading Section is also 70 minutes long and includes short and long reading reading passages with related questions and sentence completions. The Writing Section consists of two parts: a short 25 minute essay assignment and multiple-choice questions based on the rules of standard written English. There is also one 25-minute un-scored section that ETS uses to try-out questions for future SAT tests. The entire lasts 3 hours and 45 minutes.


STEP students are required to take the SAT in early May of their Junior Year, after the completion of the STEP SAT preparation course. If a student does not receive the score hoped for in May, he or she must take the SAT again in September of his/her Senior Year. The test is also offered in January, March, April, and June of Junior year, as well as October and December of the Senior Year. STEP advises that student’s take the SAT at least twice. Keep in mind that colleges are sent all your scores, students should not re-take the test without studying significantly beforehand. Colleges calculate scores from multiple SAT tests in one of three ways: highest overall test (no mixing and matching), highest overall score from your best in each category from any test, or average of all scores.


The first thing you must realize about the SAT is that it is a screening test used to identify and classify a large number of students nationwide. A screening test is very different from a test students take at school, which are intended as a means for the student to demonstrate his or her knowledge of a particular subject matter. If the material on a high-school Biology test has been covered effectively, most of the students will score above 75%. A screening test like the SAT, however, is meant to identify an elite group of students who are best prepared for college course-work, and thus is designed to push your score as close to the average, or “median” score as possible. In other words, if 50% of your Biology class gets a 50% on a test, your teacher is failing to communicate ideas effectively, but if 50% of the country gets the equivalent of a 50% on the SAT, ETS has done it’s job well. Only 25% of students are supposed to score better than about a 50% on the SAT, so the test-makers at ETS do everything they can to keep your score down!


On the SAT, you are awarded one “raw score point” for each correct answer you give, and deducts ¼ raw point or each incorrect answer. Questions which you do not answer, or “omit”, do not raise or lower your score. Accordingly, your raw score on each section is calculated by totaling your correct answers and subtracting ¼ times the number of incorrect answer you gave. On the Writing Section, the essay counts for about 30% of your raw score, and the multiple-choice questions for about 70%. Raw scores on each section are then converted—using a scale that is specific to each test—into a scaled score between 600 and 2400.

Scoring Strategies

There are many test-taking strategies that one can learn to score higher on the SAT. These strategies are covered in detail in the STEP SAT preparation course given in the Spring of students’ Junior Year. The most important strategy, however, involves choosing when to “omit” a question and when to make a guess at the correct answer. Because you are only penalized a ¼ point deduction for an incorrect answer, if you can rule-out two or more of the five answer choices on any multiple choice question, it is better to guess among the other two or three. At worst, you then have a 1 in 3 chance of getting the question right, which in the long run outweighs the possibility of getting ¼ point deducted from your score. If you cannot decide between four or all five of the answer choices, it is best to omit the question.

Score Trends

Fifty percent of high school seniors usually scores somewhere between 1400 and 1500 on the three combined sections of the New SAT. This may seem surprising, but you must remember that the SAT is designed specifically to push scores closer to the median score of 1450. The test wants you to be average! In general, less than 15% of the country scores 1800 or higher, so if you are in that range you will have a lot of college options. Below is a chart of the SAT scores required to gain entrance at a range of colleges and universities in New York State and across the country. The score range listed for each college is what is called the “median 50%” applicant score range, which means that 50% of students admitted to that college last year had scores somewhere in the given range. Keep in mind that 25% of admitted students scored lower than the given range, and 25% scored higher.


California Institute of Technology 2150-2360
Harvard University 2100-2370
Princeton University 2050-2330
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2050-2320
Brown University 1960-2280
Rice University 1960-2280
Amherst College 1950-2260
University of Pennsylvania 1950-2220
Duke University 1940-2240
Northwestern University 1910-2180
Johns Hopkins University 1900-2220
Reed College 1890-2160
Wellesley College 1890-2160
Washington University 1890-2150
University of Notre Dame 1880-2140
Georgetown University 1870-2180
Tufts University 1860-2140
University of Michigan 1790-2080
University of California: Berkeley 1780-2160
University of North Carolina 1780-2080
Smith College 1780-2060
Boston University 1770-2040
University of Florida 1730-2030
University of Colorado 1580-1880
University of Washington 1550-1910
University of Oregon 1500-1850
Arizona State University 1480-1820
University of San Francisco 1440-1770

New York State

Columbia University 1980-2280
Vassar College 1970-2200
Cornell University 1950-2220
Barnard College 1920-2130
Bard College 1890-2190
Cooper Union 1880-2170
New York University 1830-2200
Rensselear Polytechnic Institute 1800-2110
SUNY: Ganeseo 1800-1920
Sarah Lawrence College 1790-2060
Skidmore College 1740-2010
SUNY: Binghamton 1740-1990
Union College 1730-2000
Syracuse University 1720-1970
Rochester Institute of Technology 1650-1950
Fordham University 1640-1940
SUNY: Buffalo 1590-1860
SUNY: Stony Brook 1580-1900
Hofstra University 1570-1840
New School University 1550-1910
SUNY: Albany 1550-1820
SUNY: New Palz 1510-1800
Manhattan College 1510-1790
SUNY: Fredonia 1510-1770
Adelphi University 1500-1820
Manhattanville College 1460-1820
Pace University 1460-1750
CUNY: Hunter College 1450-1720
SUNY: Plattsburg 1420-1690
CUNY: Brooklyn College 1390-1770
St. John’s University 1390-1730
CUNY: Queens College 1370-1680
Pratt Institute 1360-2000
St. Joseph’s College 1330-1650
Utica College 1280-1600
CUNY: John Jay College of Criminal Justice 1260-1560
Long Island University: Brooklyn 1180-1550


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