SAT Prep FAQs: Why Is The SAT So Difficult?

In my opinion the SAT and ACT test writers is to get students to fall through the cracks.  Very few students have the natural ability to rise to the top on their own.  Even naturally smart people have a heck of a time getting to their optimal ability on their own.  It’s very common for us to get a student with 1100 Math and Reading SAT score to 1400 and above, but it takes diligent effort to get a student to perform at his or her optimal levels.  Let’s focus on the SAT specifically because it contains a high frequency of tricks, deceptions, and penalties.

First of all, the SAT is a very long test.  It is 5 hours!  Most students aren’t accustomed to such mental, emotional, physical, or physiological endurance.  Along the way there are many pit falls for unsuspecting students to fall into that cause extreme stress and therefore dramatic decrease in mental function.  They even put a mystery section on the test that doesn’t even count to the students score!  I think they do this to further annoy millions of teenagers every year.

Let’s start with the reading sections.  Each reading section begins with at least 5-vocabulary fill in the blank questions.  They typically go from easy to hard difficulty as the questions progress.

Students are so programmed to answer every question in school that they have a very difficult time omitting the difficult vocabulary questions at the end of the section.  Which are often in double negative form and penalized for each incorrect answer.  Over the entire test this can dramatically reduce the score.

Another hazard in the vocabulary is the way they get students to make forced assumptions by announcing a particular word then placing answer choices that students often associate with the words that have no bearing on the actual clue within the sentence itself.  Thus, producing a lot of incorrect answers.  The reading passages themselves are very sophisticated with stories that students generally find not interesting riddled with brain twisting names, random difficulty levels and bunches of very challenging questions all in a row designed to intimidate and delay students.

Furthermore, many of the questions are based on inference based on synonyms and analogies so as to blur any direct relationships between questions and answers.  In other words, IT’S HARD! It is very common for students to run out of time in Critical Reading.  In school the majority of math is formulas and in the SAT it’s a 100% word problems!

Since most students lack critical thinking skills this is a major problem.  No pun intended!  Some of the questions are down right ridiculous.  Students are accustom to solving x, y or z.  But on this test for example they ask for things like what is 2x + 2y, a in terms of b and c, y2/3 in terms of x.  What is one possible answer?  What is the least possible answer?  What could be the answer?  What must be the answer?  …and math from La La Land that they make up.

The Writing Section of the SAT is also extremely challenging, students have to write a complete essay in 25 minutes off the top of their heads and must deal with grammar rules that they are entirely unfamiliar with through school.  On the ACT the biggest challenges are the time constraints.  You really have to be able to move quickly and efficiently to maximize your score.  The good news is that it doesn’t require rocket science to achieve SAT or ACT dominance.  With a few skills, strategies, techniques, and pattern recognition and a lot of consistent practice you can realize a 300 plus score increase yourself.

Sign up to receive our free and official diagnostics test for the ACT or SAT to see how well you are prepared for your test!  Use our diagnostics test repeatedly as a study tool to help increase your score and know where you stand.


Steve Kirshenbaum, M.S. is an Educational Consultant and Founder of SAT Preparation Group, which specializes in worldwide ACT / SAT coaching. SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. SAT Preparation Group can be reached at 877-672-8773 or


SAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.

Recommended Posts