Is the SAT Hard

Is the SAT Hard?

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

The SAT is indeed hard. What makes the SAT difficult is more just sitting for 4 hours straight thinking deeply. What makes this test harder than a normal test is that the questions are intentionally created to “trick” you and make you pick the right answer.

Thankfully, with the right SAT prep, these “tricks” can be anticipated and practiced!

Prepping for the SAT? Consider this list of our favorite SAT prep books

Is the SAT Hard? Let’s Learn More About the Test

As you go into standardized testing season, you may find yourself wondering: Is the SAT hard? This age-old question has caused a large amount of unnecessary stress for test-takers each year. Test anxiety can lead to more mistakes and lower scores, so it’s important to understand what to expect. The SAT’s difficulty will vary widely depending on whether you’ve prepared enough. These are some quick ways to identify difficult portions of the test, and to structure your study time to alleviate stress.

It’s common to be intimidated by the SAT, but you don’t need to worry if you’ve prepared properly. As long as you understand the test’s formatting and concepts, you’re already well on your way to a high score. Generally, the test will review concepts that you learn in your first two years of high school. There will be a few more advanced questions as well. Because of this, people who take the SAT in their junior year should only encounter material they’re familiar with.

The challenge doesn’t lie in the material covered. Instead, you might have a hard time with the question formatting on the SAT. The SAT will ask questions differently from most tests you’re used to. It’s important to take practice tests before your SAT test date so that you can familiarize yourself with the question format. Additionally, practice tests will help you identify areas that you need to study more in-depth.

Why It’s Hard for Many

Test Day Stress

is the sat hard

Students often find themselves stressed on the day of the test, especially because so much pressure is put on their results. When you’re stressed during the test, you’re more likely to make mistakes and second-guess yourself. You’re also more likely to forget concepts and spend extra time on simple questions.

If you study from test day stress: don’t worry! You’re not alone. Millions of students each year feel the pressure of taking standardized tests. There are simple acts of self-care that you can take to alleviate your stress and yield a higher score.

How to Cope with Test Day Stress:

Make sure you get enough sleep on the night before the test. You should also take multiple practice tests during to get used to the testing environment. Eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of water before your test. And most importantly, relax! Deep breathing exercises and basic stretches are a good way to calm your body before and during the test. Be prepared with all the items you may need for SAT test day. 

Time Pressure

test day anxiety

Each section on the SAT is timed. Even though you’ve seen all the concepts before, the time pressure might make you nervous on test day. The Reading section will have you answer 52 questions in 65 minutes. This means you should spend about 75 seconds on every question. The 75 seconds also includes the amount of time it takes to read each text passage.

Don’t be intimidated by these numbers, though. They’re an effective guideline to help you finish the test on time, but they aren’t the end-all be-all of the SAT. You should concentrate on understanding the questions and answering them effectively first. The amount of time you take should be a secondary concern. With enough practice, answering within the time limit will be easy and natural.

How to Alleviate Time Pressure:

You’ll need to develop a passage-reading strategy that allows maximum efficiency. It’s also important to understand how much time you should spend on each question. The Writing section, which is also passage-based, allows about 48 seconds for every question. On the no-calculator Math section, you’ll have 75 seconds to calculate each question. The Calculator Math section allows you 87 seconds for every question. If you know you’re taking too long on one question, you should move on and come back to it later.

High-Level Reading Passages

sat reading

Every passage that you encounter on the SAT will be pulled from a published text. Each test also includes at least one text from a historical source. It’s common to encounter old-fashioned language, along with high-concept and difficult-to-comprehend language.

One thing to remember is that you don’t need to understand every single word in a reading passage. Instead, you should learn to glean general ideas about the author’s intent, the ideas discussed, and whatever smaller details the questions ask you.

How to Read & Comprehend Reading Passages Better:

You’ll need to develop a strategy for reading your passages quickly and efficiently. First, you’ll have to understand the different reading passages that are part of the SAT. Next, you’ll need to understand the types of questions you’ll encounter. Different questions will cover different parts of the passage, so you need to understand how to absorb the relevant information.

Our Book Recommendation for Improving Your Reading:

The Critical Reader, Fifth Edition: The Complete Guide to SAT Reading The Critical Reader, Fifth Edition: The Complete Guide to SAT Reading

Our top pick for those who need SAT reading section-specific practice.

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05/19/2024 06:05 am GMT

Check out the full list of the best SAT prep books here.

Many Don’t Prepare Correctly

Many people don’t take the proper time to prepare for the SAT. It’s important to take practice tests and familiarize yourself with the format of the questions. The SAT sections always follow the same format, no matter what year you take the test. Test questions are written in specific formats that are relatively similar each year. If you’re not confident you can prepare for the SAT on your own, then here are our most recommended SAT prep courses

How to Get Better at Thinking Like an SAT Test Writer:

You should do practice tests that help you understand the format of the questions. You should also learn to recognize trick questions, as doing so will yield a higher score. Since you have so little time for each question, it’s important to practice understanding the test before you take the actual test.


Is the SAT hard? The difficulty of the test will depend largely on how well you’ve prepared. You shouldn’t encounter any material you’re unfamiliar with. It’s important to take practice tests and become familiar with the format of the questions. Additionally, you should learn to work efficiently by spending only the allotted time on every question. If you’re spending too much time on one question, move on. Understanding the test format will yield better scoring results.