ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country

Our cookies

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience with personalized content, relevant ads and enhanced functionalities. By allowing all you agree to the use of cookies as per the cookie policy and remember you can manage your preferences anytime.
The basics
THE USA: Applying to University

SAT 1 vs SAT 2: What's the difference?

Thinking of studying in the USA and feeling confused about the SAT exam? We explain the differences between SAT 1 and SAT 2, what each of the tests covers, what the benefits are and how the SAT exam can affect your university application.

share image


If you’ve been considering studying in the USA, you’ll likely be familiar with SAT examination. The exam forms a crucial part of the application process for some universities. Passing the SAT exam can be a requirement for entry into degree courses. However, you may be a little curious as to why there are two SAT exams and what the difference is. We take you through the purpose of the exams, what each is about, and how they relate to applying to study in the USA.  


What is the SAT? 


The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) was developed and managed by the College Board in the USA. The SAT exam assesses and verifies the academic abilities of prospective students applying to university. The test is standardised across the country and is administered by the Education Testing Service. 


The SAT exam is a multiple-choice, paper-based test. However, in 2023 the test will be made available to students online. The exam aims to evaluate the essential academic skills of reading, writing, language, and mathematics. It is usually a three-hour long exam with a total mark of 1,600. The average score on the SAT exam is 1,060, with most universities looking for scores between 1,250 and 1,320 for acceptance. 


Discover more on how to apply to a university in the USA



What is the SAT 1 exam?


To put it simply, the SAT 1 exam is the general assessment you will need to undertake when applying to some universities in the USA. It will test your abilities in the two essential skills of literacy and numeracy. The exam has three sections covering reading, writing and mathematics. 


The exam is all about testing your critical thinking skills and analytical abilities while also applying logic. Key facts about the SAT 1 test are:


  • Three hours long
  • Three sections 
    • Reading – 52 questions (65 minutes)
    • Writing – 44 multiple choice questions (35 minutes)
    • Mathematics – 58 questions (80 minutes)


You may have heard that the SAT 1 test included an optional essay section. This was the case for international students up until June of 2021. when the essay component of the test was discontinued. If you’re looking to prepare for the SAT 1 test, you can use several online resources provided by the College Board. These include sample papers, model answers, and exercises. Some of the resources are freely available, while others you may need to pay for. 


Get advice on how to revise for examinations effectively


What is the SAT 2 exam?


In a significant overhaul of the SAT exam architecture and offering, the College Board decided to discontinue the SAT 2 exam from mid-2021. The SAT 2 test was also known as the Subject SAT. The exam covered 20 foundational subjects across languagesSTEM, and humanities. The exam was used as an indicator for universities when assessing applicant aptitude for related courses. 


Most universities in the USA did not require international students to take the SAT 2 exam, which is one of the reasons why it was scrapped. In addition, the decision to end the SAT 2 exam was made with the changing trends brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The test was a good way to familiarise yourself with a specialised area of knowledge or field. SAT past papers and information are still available for you to look at and learn from, but you won’t sit for an exam. Some of the subjects you could develop your knowledge of include:


  • Chemistry 
  • Literature 
  • Italian 
  • Mathematics 
  • Physics 
  • History 
  • Biology 


Remember that although the SAT 2 is no longer offered, universities may have additional entrance testing criteria for certain degrees and subjects. This could be an admissions testadmissions interview or even a performance/presentation


Why take the SAT 1 exam?


There are numerous plus points for taking the SAT 1 exam if you’re looking to study in the USA. Firstly, it may be a requirement for acceptance at your chosen university. It’s also a great way to practice some important skills you’ll need at university. Some of the other benefits of taking the SAT 1 exam:


  • Qualification for financial aid and scholarships. Organisations and universities may use your SAT to assess your academic potential and as a criterion for a scholarship.
  • Equips you with essential critical skills that will help you when you enter degree study at university. You may also identify areas in which you want to improve. 
  • You may be exempt from university admission tests or exams if you have taken the SAT exam, making application a bit easier. 
  • The SAT exam can also help you qualify for pathway courses or foundation programmes. 
  • The SAT exam will help with your English language learning. 


Armed with your new knowledge about the SAT exam, you may want to explore more about studying in the USA. We can help with information on what the USA offers international students, the top five student cities in the USA, and the Fulbright Scholarship programme. You can also find your ideal course and university using our course matcher

Study in the USA


'Study in the USA' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the USA into one handy digital book.

Get your eBook

Must read