Why is the SAT changing?

The College Board hopes to align the SAT more closely with content taught in the high school classroom. The new exam will focus more on testing the skills required in college courses and in real-world careers. The SAT also wants to test less material but test how deeply a student understands that material. In other words: less breadth, more depth.

When is it changing?

The current SAT will be administered for the last time in January 2016. The new SAT will start in March 2016, thus students in the Class of 2014 and 2015 will not be affected by the new SAT. Students in the Class of 2016 and younger may be affected depending on when they decide to take the SAT.

Keep in mind that the College Board will also change the PSAT to match the new SAT. The new PSAT will be given in October 2015 for the first time, which will only affect the Class of 2017 and later classes.

What will the new test look like?

  • Sections: The new test will now have 3 sections: Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and an Essay.
  • Scoring:  The total score on the new SAT will range from 400 to 1600 points:
    • Math: 200­­­­­–800 points
    • Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing: 200–800 points
    • Essay: scored on a scale of 2-8 by SAT readers but will not be included in the SAT total score; score will NOT be included in the total score and will be OPTIONAL*
    • The SAT will also provide subscores for various skills in each section, which show a student where to study in order to improve.
  • Guessing Penalty: There will no longer be a guessing penalty on the exam, so guess on every question!
  • Computer-Based Testing: The new SAT will be available in paper booklets at every testing location, but the SAT will begin to offer tests on a computer in select cities.
  • Fewer Answer Choices: Instead of 5 answer choices per multiple-choice question, the new SAT questions will only have 4 answer choices. That’s good news: students will have a better chance of guessing correctly with fewer answers to pick from.

*Colleges will, however, receive the essay score on a student’s score report.

New SAT Score Breakdown_001


What’s new in Math?

  • Calculator Use: There will be one section that students can use the calculator for and one section without a calculator.
  • Content Covered: Most of the basic math content will be the same. Students will still see ratios, percentages, fractions, averages, etc. on the exam.
  • Question Format: Many of the math questions will now involve scenarios that students may see in college courses in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities. There will also be business scenarios that relate to real-world careers. For example, there may be a question about a biology experiment that tests the weight of songbirds. A student might be asked to calculate the average weight of the birds or to look for a mathematical pattern in the data. It’s still the same math, just applied in more relevant ways than the old SAT.

Find out more about what’s changing in the Math section.

What’s new in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing?

  • Vocabulary: Gone are the obscure SAT words. The new SAT will test vocabulary students see in college and in their future careers. That means “adumbrate” is out, “synthesis” is in.
  • Graphics: Passages will now include charts, graphs, or pictures related to the text. For example, a student might be asked how the author of the passage needs to change the passage’s argument to better reflect the data in a chart.
  • Evidence-Based: Some of the reading questions will ask students to read more deeply. Instead of just answering a question about the author’s tone, a student will need to find the specific lines in the passage that provide evidence of the author’s tone.
  • Grammar: Editing grammatically incorrect statements will still show up on the exam, but students will be given full passages to contextualize the statements.

Find out more about what’s changing in the Reading and Writing/Language sections.

What’s new on the Essay?

  • Essay Topics: No more essays on the definition of courage or the importance of rebellion. The new SAT essay will be based on a reading passage. In their essays, students will need to analyze how the author constructs his/her argument in the given passage. It will test how carefully a student can read the text and how clearly a student can explain what makes the passage persuasive.
  • Optional Essay: One other big change will be that the SAT essay is no longer required on the exam. As on the ACT, students won’t have to write the new SAT essay. However, many colleges and schools might still require students submit an essay score.

Find out more about what’s changing in the Essay section.

Is it still possible to study for the SAT?

Absolutely. The College Board has promised to release more SAT practice problems than ever before to give students an idea of what to expect on the exam. The test writers will release the material far in advance of the first new SAT, so students can feel confident long before the new exam goes into effect.