We've written the best guide to the SAT essay available anywhere.
To craft this guide, we have carefully read all official material available on the SAT essay from the College Board and read the best SAT books we could find and extracted the most important things you need to know to succeed on the essay section. Based on this research, we're confident that this is the most complete and comprehensive resource available for the SAT essay.
This guide gets deep into every aspect of the SAT essay, from the rubric to prompts to the nuts and bolts of how to write a high-scoring essay. You'll learn the best tips and strategies to use to maximize the value of your SAT essay practice as well as how much time to devote to prepping for the essay.
If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT essay and how to improve your SAT essay scores, this guide is invaluable. Rather than trying to put all the information we've distilled into one long article, we've created this multi-sectioned guide to serve as a table of contents to each of our more in-depth articles.
We'll start by taking a high-level look at the importance of the SAT essay to colleges and which schools care about your SAT essay score. The next section delves into more of the details of the SAT essay prompt and rubric and outlines step-by-step how to write a perfect-scoring SAT essay. The third part of this guide takes you through tips and strategies to use with the SAT essay. Finally, we'll end with a brief rundown of our articles on the old SAT essay, which have some general writing guidance that's still useful for the current essay.
We suggest reading through this guide in order your first time through, as you would any other test prep resource. Alternatively, if you're just looking for a refresher on certain areas, you can use this guide as a reference you can jump around in as needed.
Official SAT tests released by the College Board are the absolute gold standard for SAT practice questions. Each official practice test contains real questions given to actual students at previous administrations of the SAT.
In this article, I'll show you where to find all official SAT practice tests online. This comprehensive guide gives you access to more practice tests than any other guide out there. Most of these tests are free and great practice to get started with your SAT prep. We'll also discuss how to use these practice tests to help you get the most improvement possible out of them.
A Quick Intro to SAT Practice Tests
I've divided the sources of SAT practice tests into a few categories based on what version of the SAT the tests follow. There are three basic versions:
- SAT (2016 to present, out of 1600)
- Old SAT (pre-2016, out of 2400)
- Very old SAT (pre-2005, out of 1600)
All free tests are released publicly by the College Board and made available for download without copyright concerns. The College Board releases a free test each year for students to practice with.
Tests based on the current SAT are by far the best to use for SAT practice since they're exactly like the SAT. While you can still use old SAT practice tests, it's important to be aware of out-of-date question types, scoring systems, and sections.
All Free SAT Practice Tests (2016 and Later, Out of 1600)
These are the ONLY eight official practice tests for theredesigned SAT, provided by the College Board itself. These will be the absolute best tests to use when studying for the SAT.
Practice Test 1: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 2: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 3: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 4: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 5: Questions | Answers |Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 6: Questions | Answers |Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 7: Questions | Answers |Answer Explanations | Essay
Practice Test 8: Questions | Answers | Answer Explanations | Essay
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Free SAT Practice Tests, Old Format (Pre-2016, Out of 2400)
These tests follow the old 2400-point format of the SAT, with separate Reading, Math, and Writing sections. This test had its last administration in January 2016.
Even for the current SAT, these tests are useful for your studying. However, be sure to note the major changes between the old and current SAT. Here's how you should be using these older practice tests:
- Know that the structure and timing are different. The SAT now has only four sections and doesn't skip around subjects like the old SAT did.
- Reading on the SAT is very similar to how it was on the old SAT. In these old SAT practice tests, Reading passages and questions are all useful to practice with.
- Writing on the SAT tests similar grammar skills—but they're tested in a different passage-based format. You can use these old SAT tests to practice key SAT grammar rules, but know that you won't be seeing any questions based on isolated sentences anymore.
- Math on the SAT is similar in format, but it now emphasizes algebra and de-emphasizes geometry. Go ahead and use these old tests for math practice, but be sure to focus more on the skills that the current SAT tests.
Official SAT Practice Test 2013-14: Questions | Answers
Official SAT Practice Test 2012-13: Questions | Answers
Official SAT Practice Test 2007-08: Questions | Answers
Official SAT Practice Test 2004-05: Questions | Answers
All of the other yearsare repeats of these tests, including 2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09, 2006-07, and 2005-06. You might find these on other forums or websites. Don't waste time taking these tests, as they're the same tests as the four above.
Free SAT Practice Tests, Very Old Format (Pre-2005, Out of 1600)
Before the redesigned SAT in 2016, the last time the SAT changed was in 2005. This was back when I took it and earned a perfect SAT score.
The following links are a hidden gold mine of old tests that few students know about, so by taking these tests, you'll have that much more of an edge over current students.
However, there are important caveats to know before taking these tests:
- Skip the analogy questions on Reading sections. These are the questions that look like "CAR : ENGINE ::." You won't see this question type on the SAT now, so don't spend any time on it. That said, the passage questions are all still very useful.
- Skip the comparison questions on Math sections. These are the ones that show two boxes and ask you to choose whether A or B is greater. Since this question type isn't on the SAT anymore, there's no use practicing it.
- There are no Writing sections on these tests. As a result, you won't get the grammar and English practice you need to do well on the SAT's Writing and Language section.
Be grateful you didn't need to do some of these old-format questions—analogies were the main reason that the SAT got a bad rap for forcing students to memorize vocab!
Official SAT Test 2004-05: Questions | Answers
Official SAT Test 2003-04: Questions | Answers
Official SAT Test 2002: Questions + Answers
Official SAT Test 2001: Questions + Answers
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3 Additional Resources for Official SAT Practice
We've given you all official SAT practice tests above, but is there anything else you can use for quality SAT practice? Each of the following resources contains more official, quality SAT practice.
#1: Official SAT Website Sample Questions
On top of full-length practice tests, the College Board website offers a decent number of sample SAT questions for the Reading, Writing, Math, and Essay sections. While some of these questions appear on official practice tests, not all do. Thus, I highly recommend using this resource for extra SAT practice.
In total, you'll get the following number of questions for each section:
- Reading: 24 questions (with two reading passages)
- Writing: 22 questions (with two reading passages)
- Math: 30 calculator-permitted questions, 18 no-calculator questions
- Essay: Two prompts (with 16 sample essays)
#2: Khan Academy Online SAT Practice
The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to offer free and official online SAT prep to test takers.
Although the website doesn't offer a comprehensive prep program or any new practice tests (all of the tests here are those on the College Board website), it does offer a lot of extra, high-quality SAT practice questions not available elsewhere.
Khan Academy's best feature is its tutorial videos, which teach you step by step how to solve and approach specific SAT question types, from Math questions dealing with linear functions to Writing questions focused on parallel structure.
#3: The Official SAT Study Guide, Second Edition
Price: About $20
This official SAT prep book contains 10 old-format SAT practice tests not available online, and is helpful if you're looking for a massive source of practice material.
That being said, remember that the format used here differs considerably from the current version of the SAT. Therefore, I recommend using these practice questions in isolation instead of taking the tests in full. As you go through the book, pinpoint the questions most like those on the current SAT, and then drill them for extra practice.
How to Use Official SAT Tests Effectively: 5 Key Tips
There's an art to using official SAT tests effectively and getting the biggest improvement from your time investment. Here are five critical strategies to keep in mind when taking the tests:
#1: Use Strict Timing on Each Section
Most students have issues with time pressure on the SAT. Adding just two minutes to a section's time limit can change your score by as many as hundreds of points. So don't deceive yourself about your abilities; the point of practice tests is to identify your weaknesses.
Here are the official time limits for each section as well as how much time you should (approximately) spend per question:
|SAT Section||Time per Section||Time per Question|
|Reading||65 minutes||75 seconds|
|Writing and Language||35 minutes||48 seconds|
|Math No Calculator||25 minutes||75 seconds|
|Math Calculator||55 minutes||77 seconds|
#2: Take the Test in One Sitting
The SAT is a marathon, lasting four hours on a Saturday morning. I've heard from hundreds of students how difficult it is to stay focused and avoid careless mistakes at the end of the test. Just like training for a marathon, you have to make sure you have enough endurance for the SAT—which is why it's so important to take each SAT practice test in one sitting.
If there's no possible way for you to take a practice test in one go, it's OK to split it up over a few days. Ideally, you'll split up the test in such a way that you're not stopping and starting midway through any sections.
In the end, it's better to do some practice than none at all. Just make sure to time yourself on each section.
#3: Review Your Answers
The point of taking practice tests isn't to just do a lot of questions—it's to learn from your mistakes.
For every test, spend time reviewing the mistakes you made as well as every question you got right. If you don't know why you missed a question, don't just gloss over it! Doing this keeps you from being able to identify and attack your weaknesses. As a result, you'll end up making the same mistakes over and over again, ultimately hampering your score.
In short, prize study quality over quantity. I'd rather you take three practice tests with detailed review than six practice tests with no review.
#4: Take at Least 4 Practice Tests Before Test Day
I've found from experience with thousands of students that this number of tests gets you really comfortable with the SAT in all respects—timing, endurance, stress, etc. You can definitely take more tests if you want, but make sure to balance this with focused prep on your weaknesses so that you can ultimately make faster progress.
#5: No Score Improvement? Find Extra Prep Support
Some students can learn perfectly by themselves with practice tests—they'll see a mistake they made and instantly realize why they made that mistake and avoid it in the future. Most students, however, need additional help to pinpoint their weaknesses and teach them the key skills and strategies for doing well on the SAT.
Good options for extra support include tutors, prep programs, and classes. To do well on the SAT, you'll need to determine what kind of support works best for your particular learning style (as well as your budget). Our free guide can help you figure out what kind of support is right for you.
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Here are the best study guides for SAT Reading, SAT Writing, and SAT Math, available anywhere. I guarantee you that these guides will improve your score!