Cheat Sheet for New SAT | What's on the New SAT?

High school students have a big decision to make this year. Do they take the old SAT this fall and winter, or sit for the brand-new SAT in the spring of 2016? Because the new test has been redesigned, it’s tough to know what to expect. In order to make the most informed decision, we recommend students make sure they’re familiar with the major changes on the new exam.

What's On the New SAT? | The Basics

When students sit for the next exam in the spring, they’ll actually get through the test faster, thanks to a shorter time limit and optional essay section. The old SAT had nine sections, including a mandatory essay section, for a total of about four hours. The new exam has four sections (about three hours) with an optional essay (adds approximately fifty minutes). Regardless of whether a student chooses to do the essay, he or she will still have the chance to finish earlier than on the old SAT. The number of questions on the new exam is shorter as well (154 instead of the previous 170), which helps reduce test-taking time.

Even the scoring system is different on the new exam. The old exam awarded points out of 2400: up to 800 for math, reading, and writing sections, including the essay section. The new exam is out of 1600: 800 for math and reading plus writing, with a separate essay score if students choose to write the essay.

Another big change on the new SAT is the elimination of a guessing penalty. On the old SAT, students lost a quarter of a point for each incorrect answer. The new SAT has no penalty, so students should fill in an answer for every question.

Another big change is the elimination of calculators on parts of the math section. Calculators are still allowed during certain times, but there are questions where students must perform their own calculations by hand.

What's On the New SAT? | Critical Reading Changes

Even the content of the new SAT is different, which might be good news for some students. The SAT Critical Reading section has gone through many changes: it is now one section with an hour time limit, instead of three short sections. The focus of the section will be on sentence completion and passage-based questions, with medium, long and paired passages for students to read. Vocabulary will be reduced in complexity from the old SAT vocabulary list.

What's On the New SAT? | Essay Changes

The essay is optional! The time limit has doubled (50 minutes vs 25 on the old exam) which reflects the new essay prompt: analyzing an argument in a passage instead of simply responding to a prompt.

What's On the New SAT? | Writing Changes

The writing section is one half-hour segment now, and it focuses on passage revision. Punctuation, paragraph construction, analyzing figures/charts, and skill in drawing conclusions will be important.

What's On the New SAT? | Math Changes

The math questions will come in two sections, down from three in the old SAT. Instead of including only algebra, geometry and statistics, there will be some additional trigonometry problems on the new exam.

After making sure they understand these basic  changes, students can find more information about the redesigned exam on the College Board website.


Preparation for the SAT does not have to be daunting and exasperating; instead, it can represent an important opportunity along a student’s path to learning mastery. Indeed, the perspectives and abilities acquired during preparation can be transformative and last a lifetime.

Our two-track approach to mastering content and improving test-taking skills means that students will not only thoroughly understand the fundamental concepts and skills tested by the SAT, but they will also excel in using essential techniques to improve attitude, endurance and focus. Our students hone their independent thinking skills while developing a resilient mindset so they can perform on test day in a powerful, resourceful, creative and calm manner. Each student in our program receives the undivided attention and expertise of a dynamic and experienced coach who provides the framework to support each student on his unique path to becoming a master learner.

Please call 917.287.7927 now for a complimentary consultation to discuss how Origins Tutoring can help your child achieve his or her personal best on the SAT.