NEW SAT: What’s Changing & Why It Matters!


You’ve heard the news, but what’s all the fuss about? John LaPlante, Head of Learning at Testive, breaks it down to clear up the confusion.

Why is the SAT Changing?

According to the College Board—maker of the SAT—the test is changing to “focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college career readiness and success.”

This stated reason is somewhat accurate, since the SAT that is offered today tests a number of skills and areas of knowledge that are not particularly relevant or useful for determining college readiness. For instance, knowing 500 obscure vocabulary words really has no correlation to being able to do well in college, nor does the ability to identify and correct grammar errors out of context. So in this respect, the new SAT is intended to provide a more realistic assessment of the skills needed to succeed in college.

On a more practical level, however, the new SAT is also a response to market forces; the ACT has gained considerable market share over the past decade (even surpassing the SAT last year in terms of total test takers), and the new SAT is a response to that trend. It’s no wonder, then, that the new SAT will resemble the ACT a little more closely in both form and content.

Finally, the Common Core is also a driving force; in fact, David Coleman, who is the head of the College Board, also helped to develop the Common Core standards, and it therefore makes sense that the College Board will look to those standards when designing the new SAT.

What exactly is changing on the NEW SAT?

The content and scoring of the test are all changing. Without going into too much detail, here are the biggest changes:

  • Only two sections: evidence based reading and writing, and math
  • Optional essay, requiring analysis of a document, with 50 minutes allowed
  • No penalty for incorrect answers
  • No more sentence completion questions testing obscure vocabulary
  • Increased use of charts and graphs, even in the reading section
  • Overall score will be 1600, with scores of 200-800 in reading and math, and a separate essay score; there will also be subscores in reading and math

Who does the NEW SAT affect?

Anyone who took the PSAT in October 2015 will take the NEW SAT in March 2016. Once the new SAT launches, all students graduating in 2017 or later will take the NEW SAT.

How does the NEW SAT compare to the ACT?

Although there has been a lot of talk about how the NEW SAT more closely resembles the ACT—and there is certainly some truth to that—it is important to note that they remain different tests.

The NEW SAT is no more “evidence based” than the ACT, in the sense that students are required to read and analyze documents, data, and charts, even in the essay. The NEW SAT also parses the different sections a bit more finely than the ACT, and takes a more cross-disciplinary approach.

On its face, the NEW SAT also does not have a Science section, which is also a key difference. The scoring is also an obvious difference. In the end, however, the tests are closer now than they were before the redesign.

What’s the best way to prep for the NEW SAT and when?

Students who will be taking the NEW SAT can start prepping for it on our FREE prep platform. Students just need to create an account at and after they login choose NEW SAT/PSAT on the toggle bar at the top of the page and start prepping.

It’s also not a waste of time to practice taking “old” SAT questions and tests, as well as ACT tests. Even though the format of the test is changing, rules of grammar are not, nor are the basic math formulas and concepts that need to be learned, so it’s worthwhile to practice with both old materials and new content as it becomes available.

How is Testive preparing for the NEW SAT?

Testive has been following developments with the NEW SAT since they were announced in the spring of 2014 and is in the process of creating content that will mirror what will be on the redesigned test. We are currently working on creating a full length practice test that students can take both to familiarize themselves with the new format and to gauge their strengths and weakness.

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In the spring of 2015, Testive launched its first round of practice questions with video explanations for the NEW SAT available online and FREE to all students. We are continuing to add questions until we have an inventory of questions and practice that is equal to, if not greater than, what we currently have for the “old” SAT. To get the most out of your test prep, we recommend signing up for our coaching program.

What advice do you have for parents and students struggling over which test to take?

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that if you have never taken the “old” SAT, then you really have nothing to compare the NEW SAT to, so it isn’t a question of how the new test will be more or less difficult than the old one.

Nevertheless, because many unknowns still exist with respect to the new test—the College Board still has not released a full length sample test—this uncertainty can be unsettling, particularly in light of the fact that it’s also still not known what colleges will make of the NEW SAT.

My advice is to take a practice ACT to obtain a rough idea of how you perform on that test; if you do fairly well, and you like the test (feel comfortable with the timing), then you might want to just stick with that test, because it’s a known quantity. If the ACT doesn’t feel right, however, you may want to check out the practice questions for the NEW SAT on the College Board website, and to wait for new questions to become available on Testive, to see if that test better suits your strengths.

Generally, students who do well in math may find the NEW SAT more favorable, since that subject area is now 50% of the score, so that’s also a consideration.

Any last words?

No matter what test you choose, preparation is key. Testive recommends 100 hours of prep before each test, so if you put in the time…you’ll do fine!

Download our FREE eBook – NEW SAT: Everything You Need to Know to have all of this content in one place. You can also watch our pre-recorded webinar The NEW SAT What it Means for YOU & Why it Matters. 

4 thoughts on “NEW SAT: What’s Changing & Why It Matters!

  1. Have an entering Junior and entering freshman. While freshman will be doing “new” SAT’s by the time he’s taking them, my rising junior has been receiving very mixed messages about taking “old” one in Fall 2016 because it’s “tried and true” and there is a lot of test prep available….while others state to just take “new” PSAT in Fall 2016 and new “SAT” in spring. Different colleges preferring one over the other?

    1. It’s our understanding that the College Board is providing colleges with the education and information they need to make sure that no matter which SAT score an applicant provides, there won’t be any bias toward either test. If you would like to discuss this matter further, feel free to schedule a call with one of our student success advisors. They are happy to answer any questions you might have whether you decide to prep with Testive or not. Thanks for reaching out.

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