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In March 2016, the College Board introduced the redesigned SAT, its first major revision to the test in over a decade.  While there have been substantial changes to the format and content of the SAT, it’s clear from student feedback that the SAT continues to be highly coachable.  What do these changes mean for your student?

Timing and Format of the New SAT

Total testing time. for the optional essay  3 hours, plus 50 minutes

Components of the new SAT.  Evidence-based reading and writing (includes separate reading and writing sections), math, and the optional essay.

Section format and timing.  Reading: 65 minutes, 52 questions.  Writing and language: 35 minutes, 44 questions.  No-calculator math: 25 minutes, 20 questions.  Calculator-permitted math: 55 minutes, 38 questions.  Optional essay: 50 minutes total.

 Key Changes to Content on the New SAT




  • More focused on the math topics students learn in school
  • Less geometry
  • More data analysis, word problems, and algebra
  • Students are not allowed to use a calculator on one math section
  •  No vocabulary questions (except “vocabulary in context” in reading passages)
  • Evidence-based questions ask students to support their answer choices
  • Graphs and tables appear on some reading passages
  • The writing section is now passage-based
  • Questions test grammar and punctuation as well as style, tone, and paragraph structure
  • An optional 50-minute essay is not included in students’ overall SAT scores

Other relevant content changes on the new SAT:

  • 4 instead of 5 answer choices on the multiple-choice questions
  • Each section is longer, and there are fewer sections overall
  • Reading and writing are part of one larger section: evidence-based reading and writing


How to Interpret Your Student’s Scores on the New SAT

Scores on the new SAT have returned to the 1600 scale.  Students will receive scores between 200 and 800 on both the math and the evidence-based reading and writing sections.  Those scores are added together to yield a total SAT score between 400 and 1600.

Key takeaways about new SAT scores:

There’s no guessing penalty on the new SAT – so students should answer every question.

The essay is optional and does not contribute to a student’s overall SAT score.

To compare your student’s new SAT score to scores on the old SAT or the ACT, you can use the College Board’s Score Converter website. [Note that there is currently some controversy as to whether scores among tests have been properly equated.  Proceed with caution, and talk with your college counselor about your college applications.]

Scores on the new SAT are slightly higher than old SAT scores, even though each section is scored on the same 200-800 scale.  For example, a 730 on the new SAT’s math section is approximately equivalent to a 700 on the old SAT.  The average score on the new SAT is around a 1090.