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Glossary of SAT terms

One of the keys to success on the SAT — along with plenty of practice and keeping a clear head — is to understand exactly what the test is all about. Over the course of your SAT Prep experience here on Khan Academy, you may come across an unfamiliar term or two. We hope this glossary helps!
Is there something missing you’d like to have explained and added to this list? Let us know here.


An adjustment in testing conditions to enable students with disabilities to take a standardized test. Examples: having the questions read out loud (for visually impaired students); use of a computer for the essay (dysgraphia), 50% or 100% extended time to complete the test (documented ADD/ADHD, executive function, working memory impairments). While the testing conditions for students taking the test with accommodations may be different, the test questions and scoring system are the same. More info

Answer choices

On a multiple-choice question, there will be four answer options lettered A, B, C, and D. Only one of these will be correct. The three incorrect answer choices may represent common errors and can be very tempting! In the Reading Test, and in many of the Writing & Language Test questions, the best choice is always the one that has the best textual support - that is, evidence!

Diagnostic test

A diagnostic is a brief test with a small number of questions intended to test your general level of mastery. For the SAT, the Khan Academy diagnostic tests aim to identify your current level of skills for Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing so the practice program can give you the most accurate recommendations for skills to work on. In this way, our system “diagnoses” your current state of knowledge, and that helps us make personalized practice recommendations just for you!

IQ test / intelligence test

An IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test is an exam or a set of exams intended to evaluate a person’s general intelligence based on a combination of question accuracy and age. The SAT is NOT an IQ test. It is important to remember this, because it can seem at times like your parents, peers, or the colleges to which you apply are judging how smart you are based on your score. The SAT measures college readiness, not intelligence or aptitude or persistence.

Multiple-choice question

Multiple-choice questions provide a set of answer options from which the student must select the correct or the best-fit answer.

Percentile rank

Percentile ranks provide a way for you to compare your scores to those of other students. SAT percentile ranks are reported based on the total group of SAT test-takers in the US. The number can range from 1 to 99, and indicates the percentage of test-takers who achieved an equal or lower score than yours. For instance, a percentile rank of 76 means that 76 percent of SAT-takers achieved a score at or below your score. A percentile rank of 43 means that 43 percent of SAT-takers attained scores at or below your score.


A proctor, also called a test room supervisor or a test center supervisor, is an adult who may be in your test room to help make sure that the administration goes well. The proctor helps hand out and collect materials, check admission tickets, and make sure the room is quiet. The proctor also helps monitor test-takers to ensure no one has an unfair advantage. You may also see proctors helping test-takers at check-in or in the hallways during testing and breaks, to make sure that everyone gets where they need to go and that these areas are quiet.


The prompt is what we call the question, sentences, image, or other content that you are required to analyze and address in order to respond to the assignment or solve the problem. The SAT essay assignment is sometimes called a prompt. Make sure you fully understand what the prompt is asking of you before you rush to solve it!

Raw score

Your raw score is simply the number of questions you got correct out of the total number of questions. If there are 40 questions on a test and you got 28 correct, your raw score is 28. For the SAT, your raw score will be translated into a scaled score that takes into account things like the difficulty of the questions on this administration of the test versus another administration.

Scaled score

When you take a standardized test, there are two types of scores you may see: the raw score (number of questions you got correct out of the overall number of questions) and the converted score, which is the translation of your raw score into a different numerical format that takes into account the difficulty of the questions and the performance of your peers. For the SAT, your converted score will be 200-800 for each section.


Your SAT score report will include a number of scores, including test scores (for the Math, Reading, and Writing and Language Tests and the Essay), cross-test scores (like Analysis in Science, which is a skill covered across sections), and subscores (like Expression of Ideas, which is a skill tested within one section). More Info

Student-produced response

This is what we call the questions that require the student to provide the answer to a question rather than choose from a multiple-choice list of options. Student-produced responses occur on the Math section (in the form of a grid-in) and the Essay (the full essay is student-written). When completing a student-produced response question, don’t forget to read the instructions carefully to make sure you’re providing your answer in the requested format!

Test specifications

The specifications, or specs, of a test are the detailed descriptions of how the test is formatted (time, length, and sections), what content is covered (skills, subjects), and how the test is scored. It can be helpful to review test specifications to understand the full detail of the test you’ll be facing, but it can also be overwhelming and provide a lot of information that won’t be helpful to you. The redesigned SAT specs include a list of all Math and Reading and Writing and Language skills that the SAT covers — but you can find all of that info in a more approachable article and video format right here in Official SAT Practice on KhanAcademy.org.

Total score

Your total score for the redesigned SAT is the combination of your scaled scores from the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections, which are each 200 to 800 points. Thus, your total score for the redesigned SAT will be between 400 and 1600 points.

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