The New SAT Part 1: An Overview

This is the first part of a series on the new SAT that will be doled out over the next 18 months as we await more information on the final form of the exam.  It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam.  We have some goods stuff.)

Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone. Without further ado, here’s some of what’s coming and what we’ve concluded. 


Following up on last month’s event, during which the College Board, amongst horse-drawn carriages and blaring bugles, expanded on the details for the coming changes to the SAT, which will be rolled out in 2016. On April 16th, College Board quietly dropped 208 pages of unanswered questions and teasers on the internet and the world. The first quarter of the tome lays out The College Board’s reasoning for changing the test (somehow without mentioning the words “market share”) and strategy on how to do so (somehow without saying “we copied the ACT.”) But let’s get to the useful stuff.

What’s Different?

In short, a lot. The test will look and feel a lot different than it currently does.

This is major plastic surgery (cheek implants, nose job, botox, ear lifts, shin implants, tummy tuck, and collagen implants) on the test itself and not just the facelift that the 2005 revision was. Here are some of those big changes (in our coming post we’ll address some of the specific changes for math and verbal):

  • Back to the 1600 point scale. The new test will consist of two mandatory sections “Evidence Based Reading and Writing” and “Math,” each scored on the standard 200-800 point scale. The other section will be the Essay, which will be optional.
  • The new test will run 3 hours flat, with 50 minutes allotted for the optional essay, which will now be given at the end.
  • No more guessing penalty. Students will no longer have that quarter of a point deducted for wrong answers, eliminating the entire strategy of leaving questions blank and now raising the “Why would you ever leave that blank?” question from teachers to countless students.
  • Due to the removal of the guessing penalty, multiple choice questions will now have only 4 answer choices, because everyone hates “E.”

The other major change to scoring is the inclusion of what The College Board is calling “test scores,” “cross-test scores,” and “subscores.” This may get a little confusing, so stay with me.


Test scores” will be individual grades given in the categories of reading, writing and language, math, and the essay (if taken). This format is reminiscent of the scoring system used for the past decade. However, these scores will be given on a 10-40 point scale, rendering them completely meaningless to anyone for at least 5 years.


Cross-test scores,” which I will refer to as “the SAT jungle” because no one really knows what’s in it and few will venture in to find out. The cross-test scores, “Analysis in History/Social Studies” and “Analysis in Science,” will be based on specific questions across the three “tests” that deal with history/social studies and science. These questions will be combined to comprise the cross-test scores, which will be reported on the same useless 10-40 scale. You’re still, here? Impressive.


Finally. there will be seven “subscores,” because you didn’t have enough scores already. These will also be drawn from the three “tests.” The Reading test and the Language and Writing test will contribute to the subscores of “Command of Evidence” and “Relevant Words in Context.” The Writing test itself will be used for the subscores “Expression of Ideas” and “Standard English Conventions.” Lastly, the Math test will report the subscores of “Heart of Algebra,” “Problem Solving and Data Analysis,” and “Passport to Advanced Math.” The subscores will have an entirely pointless scoring range of their own, 1-15.


So there you have it. I assume this makes total sense to you and leaves you with absolutely no follow up questions, because College Board is making the same assumption and as of the publication of this post has not provided any more explanation.


Stay tuned for our next exciting installment on the new SAT!

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