The SAT – What Does It Really Test?
About The SAT Reasoning Test
To put it simply: The SAT is a test of your ability to use the “Three R’s” (reading, writing and arithmetic) to reason your way to identify issues and solve problems. To put it more generally, the SAT is a test of:
“Your reading and reasoning skills in context.”
Let’s explore why this is so.
According to the College Board (the developers of the SAT):
“The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you’ll need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you apply what you’ve learned in school to analyze and solve problems, the way you’ll need to in college.”
– page 3 – The Official SAT Study Guide – published by the College Board
Let’s take the College Board at its word. Let’s deconstruct this statement. What does it really mean? Look at the words that have been highlighted.
“The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills you’ll need or academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you apply what you’ve learned in school to analyze and solve problems, the way you’ll need to in college.”
The SAT is a measure (reported on a scale of 200 – 800 for each of three tests – total score of 2400) of certain critical thinking skills.
To be specific, the SAT tests how well you:
1. Understand what a question is asking and/or analyze a problem; and then
2. Apply what you have learned in school (math, reading or writing) as tools to reason (SAT Reasoning Test) your way to a solution to the problem. In addition, you must recognize that solution as one of the multiple choice answers. Knowledge of math is NOT tested on the SAT. Your SAT score is a measure of whether you can reason using your knowledge of math to solve problems.
Therefore, your SAT score will be a function of:
Three R’s Competency – your basic skills in reading, writing and arithmetic
Problem Identification – your ability to understand the question
Problem Resolution – your ability to actually solve the problems (can you figure it out)
Timing and Pacing Mastery – your ability to solve the problems quickly enough (the SAT is a rigorously timed test) so that you answer all or most of the questions in every section
Answer Recognition – your ability to recognize the designated “right answer“ choice (most of the SAT is multiple choice).
All of this must be achieved in relation to a large number of question formats. But remember, that all SAT questions (whether reading, writing or arithmetic – the three R’s) are designed to test:
“Reading and reasoning in context.”