Redesigned SAT: What You Need to Know

The College Board announced a major overhaul to its SAT exam starting in Spring 2016. Members of the Class of 2017 will be the first students to take the new SAT.

Insiders contend that heightened competition from the ACT was an impetus for the College Board to revise the exam in an effort to gain back market share. The ACT, with less emphasis on advanced vocabulary, and greater focus on high school curriculum, surpassed the SAT, with the Class of 2012, when it became the more popular test.

Responding to critiques that the SAT has become a test for the privileged, the College Board says the new SAT will be a less-coachable exam, more aligned with high school and college curricula.

Here’s what you need to know about the new SAT exam:

  •  Launch Date: Spring 2016

Members of the Class of 2017 will be the first wave of students to take the new SAT.

  •  1600 Point Maximum

The current 2400-point scale was introduced in 2005. The new SAT returns the test to its original 1600 grading scale.

  •  Digital & Shorter

The changes will shorten the exam by 45 minutes, to 3 hours. An online version is expected.

  •  No Penalty for Wrong Answers

Go ahead and guess. Currently guessing, without eliminating choices, is discouraged because 1/4 point is deducted for each incorrect answer, while no points are deducted for skipped questions.

  •  Vocabulary Will Be More Practical

 Scratch sesquipedalian off the study list. Expect to see more commonly used words such as synthesize and empirical. New vocabulary will focus on words you are likely encounter at college and in the workplace. Students taking the SAT will no longer be quizzed on esoteric and arcane vocabulary words.

  •  Essay: Not Required

 Students can choose whether or not to write an optional essay.

  •  Math Section Will be More Like the ACT

 The new math section will focus on specific math topics (e.g. data analysis, problem solving, algebra) with more depth. Expect the exam to be more straightforward with greater emphasis on applying concepts and formulas. Students will no longer need to keep their antennas on high alert for tricky questions.

  • Calculators NOT Allowed for Portions of Math Section

 The new no-calculator portion of the test will focus on assessing a student’s understanding of mathematical concepts, rather than problem solving.

  •  Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section Will Replace Current Critical Reading and Writing Sections

Well-known quotes, documents and speeches (e.g.  Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and King’s” I Have a Dream” speech)  may be included.   For some questions, students will be required to support answers with evidence such as citing specific parts of a passage to support their answer choice.  

  •  Scientific Items Will Be Included in Both Sections

The new SAT will include data tables, charts, and graphs similar to the ACT science section.  The new SAT will incorporate the science-related items in both the reading/writing and the math sections.

  • Free Study Tools

 Kahn Academy will provide free online preparation.

A summary of changes is provided by the College Board:



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