What’s Different About the New SAT?

Nov 19th, 2015 | College Admissions, College Preparation, SAT, Testing

The SAT has recently undergone a major shift in its design. The SAT has returned to the 1600-point system, made the essay “optional,” and restyled the exam questions to emphasize interpreting evidence and using skills in context. The College Board hopes that these changes will reduce some of the socio-economic bias inherent in standardized testing.

How has the the test changed? In general, it’s been redesigned to more closely resemble the ACT, which has recently surpassed the SAT in popularity for the first time in history. But the easiest way to understand what has changed is to look at what has been added and what’s been removed from the test.

What’s Gone?

  • There are no longer 5 options for multiple choice questions. The reduction to only four options will simplify the test and eliminate students’ potential for confusion.
  • There are no longer quarter-point penalties for incorrect answers, which encourages students to take their best educated guess at questions for which they are not quite certain of the answers.

What’s New?

  • There will be more graphs and charts and a greater emphasis on visual understanding, both for the reading section and the math section.
  • There will be more “great texts,” especially foundational American documents. Though familiarity with these documents isn’t necessary for the comprehension questions, it may reward a strong foundation in those texts.

Deep Focus on Evidence in Language

Above all, the new SAT focuses more strongly on evidence than ever before, and on a student’s ability to gather and interpret that evidence and apply contextual learning.

For the previous essay section of the SAT, students were asked to write an essay expressing an opinion. Now, students are instead asked to analyze a passage from a text in terms of what evidence the author is offering to support a point. This is much more akin to what college students will actually be writing for college courses, and de-emphasizes personal opinion or personal experience.

The vocabulary section also focuses on evidence-based understanding of the words. The vocabulary words in general will be less obscure than before, and replaced with “high utility” words that are used often and in different contexts.


Don’t worry—pretty much everyone is! The new SAT has students, teachers, and admissions officers everywhere buzzing with speculation as to whether the new test is better, easier, harder, fairer, etc. If you’re one of the many who feels confused by these changes, we can help you figure out whether to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, and how to best prepare for either exam. Contact Sandweiss Test Prep today to get started!