Changes to the SAT

Changes to the SAT

The “Redesigned” SAT

On March 5, 2014, the College Board announced another round of changes to many of the fundamental aspects of the SAT. The new SAT has been administered from the spring of 2016 on. This version of the test is graded on a 1600-point scale, as it was before 2005, but this new SAT is different from both the pre-2005 version and the 2005-2016 version. So parents, if you were familiar with the previous version, here’s a brief rundown of the key changes.

New Version Current Version
  • Evidenced-based Reading and Writing
  • Math
  • Essay
  • Critical Reading
  • Math
  • Writing
Scale 1600 (essay score separate) 2400 (includes essay)
Length 3 hours + 50 min for the essay 3 hours 45 minutes (includes essay)
Format Computer and print Print only
Penalty for wrong answer None (just like the ACT) Lose ¼ point
SAT words Words relevant and regularly used in college-level conversation and writing Many obscure words not regularly used
Critical Reading Texts and graphics will have to be cited or interpreted, respectively Very little specific evidence is required to answer the majority of questions
Sources Passages will be taken from founding documents (ie, The Declaration of Independence) or significant pieces they have inspired (ie, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) Passages come from any variety of published, and often obscure, sources
Math Topics Specific focus on college- and career-applicable math, including problem solving and data analysis (ratios, percentages, proportional reasoning); algebra (linear equations and systems); and advanced math (manipulating complex equations)

Questions may be framed in a real-world context, with problems applicable to science, social science, or career scenarios

Wide range of math proficiency, including statistics, probability, algebra, geometry, and arithmetic operations

Questions given with very little context or real-world framing; mostly straightforward questions

Essay Requirement Not required (but some school districts and colleges may require it) Required
Essay Topic Respond to a pre-provided prompt based on a unique passage, given at time of administration; support response with evidence from the passage (emulate college-style evidence-based writing) Prompt given at time of test administration; no outside sources provided or needed

What else is new?

    • The College Board now offers fee waivers (up to two administrations each of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, as well as four college application fee waivers) for income-eligible students. Since the cost of applying to college often serves as a barrier to otherwise eligible applicants, the College Board hopes to eliminate that barrier for many students.
    • The College Board is partnering with Khan Academy, a free online learning platform, so that all students can receive access to advanced test prep, regardless of their ability to pay.
    • For the College Board’s own description of what the new SAT involves, check out their official site.

So, what does this mean for you?

These changes have substantially affected the way students should prepare for the SAT. In general, the changes on the SAT are designed to make it more like the ACT, an increasingly popular test. The SAT now involves less testing strategy and more content review, as well as more practice writing essays.

The good news is that since the SAT is striving to be more in line with high school classwork, schoolwork is now better preparation for the SAT than it was pre-2016. Your research papers for history class, your response papers and readings for English class, and your math homework all help you hone the skills you need on the new SAT.

That said, the SAT is still a very important test with substantial differences from most school tests, and a carefully planned study program is still necessary. That’s exactly why the College Board has enlisted the help of Khan Academy: more people need better preparation. So when people say the new SAT is less “coachable,” what they mean is that tips and tricks won’t help as much as they used to; studying and practicing will still be—as they always have been—the keys to success.

At Signet, we’re up-to-date on the latest changes and well prepared to help you get your best score possible.

Contact us if you’d like help with test prep.

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Sarah Azarchi

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