Whether you’ve just started thinking about college applications, or just got back decisions, you know the SAT – it’s practically a household name. Have you ever wondered why standardized test scores mean so much to your dream colleges? While the SAT was originally based on the IQ test, CollegeBoard claims it does not measure innate abilities like intelligence. So, what does the SAT measure? We’ll go over exactly what the SAT actually tests in this blog post and how to improve your performance in these areas. 

Is The SAT An Aptitude Test?

You might’ve heard the terms “aptitude test” and “achievement test” before. Aptitude tests measure innate qualities predicting future achievement, while achievement tests measure how much you’ve learned from school.

For example, the SAT is an achievement test. It measures skills students probably learned from science, english, and math high school classes

In contrast, the original 1926 SAT was an aptitude test, measuring skills like intelligence (i.e. areas people can’t improve with studying). The first iterations of the exam were even called the Scholastic Aptitude Test.  

A lot has changed since 1926! SAT no longer stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test: it’s just the name of the test. Besides the name refresh, the SAT is more like an achievement test now, measuring skills students learn in and out of school.  

So, no, the SAT is not an aptitude test. Students can improve your performance on the SAT with enough practice and determination!

What Does The SAT Measure Exactly?

Now that we’ve cleared up what type of test the SAT is, we’ll let you in on what it’s designed to measure in each section – so you can better understand how to approach the test. 

Hold your questions! We’ll answer them. 


  • Draw inferences from text 
  • Synthesize information from text
  • Tell the difference between main and supporting ideas
  • Understand/assume words through context – you shouldn’t need to read a dictionary to take the SAT!


  • Clearly convey ideas 
  • Improve writing through revision 
  • Recognize and identify sentence-level errors like run-ons (for some fun practice, read and revise this article)
  • Understand grammatical elements (verbs, nouns, etc) and structures (phrases and clauses), and how they relate 
  • Improve coherence of ideas

Learn more about SAT reading and writing here


  • Apply mathematical concepts. 
  • Solve problems – you can read more about that here
  • Be able to read charts, graphs and other forms of presenting data. 

Time Management 

Time management isn’t a dedicated section you didn’t know about – the SAT requires you to demonstrate strong skills in this area on the entire test

The SAT only gives so much time per section. Taking the reading section: it allows only 65 minutes to read 5 passages and answer 52 questions. 

You’ll have to juggle time effectively to score high on the SAT!

In order to finish your text and score well, you’ll need to use your time effectively. If a question is really stumping you, instead of wasting 5 minutes on it, skip ahead! You could’ve completed 5 other questions in the time you wasted. 

Does the SAT Measure Intelligence?

I know personally that getting a lower-than-anticipated SAT score might make you question how smart you really are. Remember that the SAT does not actually measure intelligence. Beyond getting you into college, it doesn’t accurately predict life outcomes, income, or success. 

Intelligence isn’t defined by your SAT!

The SAT is a great tool to break admissions barriers, but if even after your fifth or sixth try you can’t get your score to where you want it to be, don’t beat yourself up too much. Treat yourself to some boba, ice cream, or whatever your favorite pick-me-up is, and check out our list of surprising celebrity SAT scores for more perspective. 


Here’s a quick recap: the SAT does not test intelligence or aptitude. Instead, it tests skills you’ve already picked up from class. But, just because you know it already doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice. 

To get a good score on the SAT, you’ll need to hone your skills, especially under the tests’ tricky time constraints. Maximize your time and learn how to study smarter, not longer

You got this! Practice the skills we’ve compiled for you today and you’re on your way to scoring high. 

Start Preparing For The Test Today With Our Tutors 

Now you know what the SAT is actually designed to measure and predict. Congrats! You’re one step closer to upping your SAT score. 

To unlock your full potential, tutor with SoFlo. Our students improve an average of 110 points after just 10 sessions. With SoFlo, you (or your child) can enjoy flexible scheduling from home – all our sessions are virtual!

With a free consultation, we’ll learn more about your unique needs and you’ll learn more about what we can do for you. 

About The Author 

Lauren Richards is a sophomore studying narrative at the University of Southern California. She scored a 1510 on the SAT, and in her free time, she enjoys snorkeling, hiking, and all things outdoors. 

You may also like

Comments are closed.