Understanding Each of the SAT Sections: A Comprehensive Guide

sat sections
November 2, 2023 6 min read Liaison

Discover insights into each of the SAT sections to understand the test's subjects, format, and timing.

Key Takeaways

Digital Transition and Format Overhaul: The SAT is shifting to a digital format in 2024, shortening the total test time to around 2 hours and altering the traditional SAT format and times.

Insight into SAT Test Sections: The SAT now encompasses two distinct sections: Reading and Writing (64 minutes) and Math (70 minutes). There is a 10-minute break between sections.

Adapting to the New SAT Format: Students need to familiarize themselves with the revised SAT format and digital testing approach by practicing with similar reading materials and honing relevant grammatical and mathematical skills.


Embarking on the SAT journey can be daunting, but understanding the nuances of the test, including the various SAT sections, can significantly alleviate your concerns about taking this important exam. This guide explores each section of the SAT, offering insights into what subjects are covered, the format, and the timing of the test in order to provide the knowledge you need to prepare and succeed.

Changes to the SAT Format and SAT Length

The SAT is going digital. The SAT has been a paper-and-pencil test for decades, but beginning in 2024, U.S. students will begin taking it online. Online testing was made available to international students in 2023. The switch to a digital format will also coincide with changes to the SAT sections and time requirements.

Breaking Down SAT Test Sections

The SAT is divided into two sections: Reading and Writing (64 minutes) and Math (70 minutes).

Reading and Writing:

This section tests your ability to interpret, understand, and analyze texts. Each question will be based on a passage which focuses on a topic related to literature, history/social studies, the humanities, or science.

Remember that in some areas of the Reading and Writing section, you may encounter graphs, charts, or other forms of data representation. Usually, the passages are unrelated, but you may be given a pair of related passages to test your understanding of multiple passages at once. You will not have to use math in any of your questions, although you will be expected to interpret the data provided in the charts or graphs.

SAT Timing

The Reading and Writing section consists of 54 questions to be answered in 64 minutes.

SAT Reading Tips

Here are our tips for improving your chances of getting a better score in the Reading and Writing section:

Practice reading passages.

The reading section involves analyzing written passages, so consider sharpening your skills by taking the official SAT practice test, which is similar to the actual test.

It is also a good idea to read news articles from publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Psychology Today because SAT passages are often based on content from such sources. Doing so will help you become comfortable with this type of material well before the day of the test.

Choose your own order.

You can choose to answer the questions in any order you like. If you find a passage particularly difficult, skip it and come back to it later.

Read efficiently.

Don't try to scrutinize every single word of the passage right away. Instead, start by skimming the passages to get the main ideas, then read more carefully when you go back to answer the questions.

You will be assessed on your grammar, vocabulary, and editing skills, as well as your ability to read passages and correct errors or weaknesses.

SAT Writing Tips

Brush up on proper grammar.

Almost half of all SAT Writing questions focus on standard English conventions. It's imperative that you brush up on the basics and make sure you know your punctuation.

Improve your writing skills.

To be a good editor, you must understand how to write well. In order to write well, you will need to get feedback on your writing. Begin by examining your previous work on school essays, reviewing the mistakes you made and understanding how to avoid them in the future. If you get stuck, ask a teacher, friend, or family member to help you improve your writing.

Math Section:

Once you are finished with the English-centered SAT test sections, it's time to move on to mathematics. The SAT Math section, which is primarily composed of multiple choice questions, evaluates your knowledge of algebra, geometry, basic trigonometry, problem solving, and data analysis. It is divided into two portions. Unlike in past years, test takers can now use a calculator during the entire Math section.

SAT Timing

Students have 70 minutes in total to solve 44 questions.

SAT Math Tips

Review basic math concepts.

Taking time to understand the fundamental math topics covered in the SAT Math section could help improve your test result. Return to basics and dive deeper to feel confident in your math skills. The best way is to take the official SAT mock tests and see how you do.

Memorize the usual formulas.

The SAT Math test uses common formulas so it is a good idea to memorize them. Knowing which formula to use will save you time and make the test-taking process less stressful.


Acquiring a deep understanding of the SAT sections, the subjects they cover, and their timing is paramount for anyone preparing to take the test. With focused preparation and a well-structured study plan, tackling the different sections of the SAT can become a manageable and even rewarding experience.

Liaison is not affiliated with the SAT. This guidance is provided for general test preparation. To learn more about updates and changes to the SAT, visit the College Board’s SAT page.


The SAT now has just two main sections.

Reading and math is one section of the SAT; Math is the other.

The SAT is now approximately two hours long.

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