Ivy League Admission Tips: Getting Familiar with the SAT and the PSAT

Start preparing for the SAT exam, which is an important factor in determining Ivy League admission success.

The precursor to the modern SAT was developed from a U.S. Army intelligence test and was first administered in 1926. The test’s name and scoring have gone through several iterations, but the SAT remains one of the foremost aptitude tests used in the college admissions process. The College Board owns and administers the SAT.

Test Dates

The SAT is currently administered approximately seven times each year. The registration deadline for each date is about four to five weeks prior to the test date, though late registration (with a late fee) is also available. Registering late, however, is not recommended; test center spaces fill up quickly.

Location & Format

The SAT is administered only at specified test centers to ensure testing integrity. The SAT is offered in paper form, but students with disabilities are eligible to use a computer word processor for essays and short answers. Use of a computer is limited and must be approved. Students who are approved to use a computer on the SAT must take the exam at their own school rather than one of the designated test centers.

Services & Fees

The current SAT fees and services are listed on the College Board’s website.

Subjects Tested

The SAT is comprised of three sections—Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics. The SAT formerly had an optional essay component, but it has since been discontinued.

  • Reading: Assesses your English comprehension and analysis skills, knowledge of English vocabulary and usage in context, and your command of evidence.
  • Writing and Language: Assesses your understanding of standard English conventions (e.g., grammar and vocabulary) and the expression of ideas.
  • Mathematics: Assesses your problem-solving and data analysis skills as well as your knowledge of algebra and advanced math.


For scoring purposes, the Reading/Writing and Language portions of the SAT count as one section. Therefore, you will receive two section scores ranging from 200 to 800, and the total composite score is the sum of both section scores, yielding a range of 400 to 1600.

When to First Take the SAT

You should take the SAT during junior year, preferably after taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT), since this practice test gives you an extra opportunity to prepare in a real testing environment.


Familiarity with the PSAT is one of the most important elements of successful test taking, and so you should consider this pretest as part of your test strategy.

The PSAT is slightly shorter and easier than the SAT, but it assesses students using the same content and format, providing valuable experience and a baseline for estimating potential SAT scores. More than that, the PSAT is also used as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which is why you may see the test referred to as the PSAT/NMSQT.

High school juniors should take the PSAT in the fall since test results are used by the National Merit Scholarship Program to determine eligibility for scholarships and recognition.

One of the advantages of taking the PSAT is that your scores will not be reported to colleges. Since the PSAT is inexpensive and risk-free from an admissions standpoint, this practice test is an ideal way to gauge where you stand with regard to the SAT.

For more information on how to ace the college admissions exams, schedule a free meeting with Ivy League Prep.