What to Expect From the New SAT Test

What to Expect From the New SAT Test

As your student prepares to make the transition from high school to college, the SAT and ACT entrance exams are important milestones along the way. Knowing what to expect from these tests can make both generations of your family feel more confident and in control at a time when so many other aspects of life are changing.

So let’s begin with the SAT Test, which has gone through some big changes that take effect in March 2016. One of the biggest is that students will no longer lose points for wrong answers, so we should encourage them to use their very best thinking and then choose boldly.

Several other changes in the SAT Test are research-based so that the test aligns better with skills students really study in school and skills they will actually need to succeed in college. For example, instead of requiring students to demonstrate mastery of a long list of “college” words, some of which were absolutely arcane, the new vocabulary section requires students to demonstrate understanding of words in context, which is how they most often learn words day-to-day.

The SAT Test Changes

What to Expect From the New SAT Test

The SAT reading section now has more questions that require students to infer answers based on evidence and then to pinpoint that evidence. It may appear as phrases or sentences within the reading passages, or it may be in the form of charts or graphs, which appear more frequently throughout the test than before. In fact, other new questions will require students to correct sentences so that they accurately reflect information presented visually in graphs or charts. The emphasis is on critical thinking and the ability to evaluate different kinds of evidence, important skills when we are making decisions that affect our future.

The SAT writing section is another that has been revamped in line with research.  Now, instead of writing an essay based on one among a universe of possible “prompts,” a student reads the essay prompt followed by a persuasive response and then analyzes the persuasive method the author has used. The prompt will be the same one from one test administration to the next, and it will be made public beforehand; the persuasive passages, however, will not.

One more change in SAT Test content is in the kind of passages included in the reading section. Students can expect to find historical documents from our country’s founding and also selections by world figures in the “great global conversation” about freedom, justice and human dignity.


New SAT Test Structure and Scoring

What to Expect From the New SAT Test

In terms of its structure, the new SAT takes three hours and includes an evidence-based reading-and-writing portion (divided into a reading test and a writing-and-language test) and a math portion. The optional essay portion, which takes 50 minutes more, is given at the end. Colleges decide whether they will require the essay portion or not, so students should definitely inquire as soon as possible about this requirement.

Originally, the SAT had a composite score of 1600, and then for a time it was bumped up to 2400. Now, it’s going back to 1600. More specifically, the new SAT is scored on a scale from 400 to 1600: The reading-and-writing scale is 200 to 800, the math scale is also 200 to 800, and the essay scale is from 2 to 8 on each of the three dimensions scored. Sub-scores for every test are also reported to give greater insight into student performance.

To these changes in the SAT itself, we can add more access to online resources:  The College Board, which administers the SAT, has teamed up with Khan Academy to offer free full-length practice tests and previously-unpublished questions from past SAT tests. While none of these is a substitute for the expert, personalized test preparation your student will enjoy at MASTERs Plus, they could be a source of additional at-home practice when time permits.



Info. From College Board Website:

New SAT is 3 hrs. (plus 50 mins. For essay=optional)

  1. Evidence-based reading and Writing
    1. Reading Test
    2. Writing and Language Test


  1. Essay (optional)—50 mins., given at the end of the SAT

Each college decides whether they will require it or not

*** “Students produce a written analysis of a provided source text.”***

“Focus on the knowledge, skills and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success”

Scale ranging from 400 to 1600

Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing; 200 to 800 for Math; 2 to 8 on each of the three dimensions for Essay

Essay results reported separately.

“Subscores for every test, providing added insight for students, parents, admission officers, educators and counselors”

[Also see chart from CB website = “Compare the New SAT and the ACT”]

So, has the ACT also changed? How do you choose which test your student should take? In our next blog we will answer that question and explain why your student should consider taking both tests.  Stay tuned!


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