The Redesigned SAT

In March 2016, the College Board switched to the infamous new SAT. In 2016, we invested hundreds of hours in analyzing the new test and adapting our curricula and program to its challenges. In Summer 2016, we began teaching the new SAT, and we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Q: Why was the SAT redesigned?

Q:  How does the redesigned SAT differ from the old SAT?

In many respects, the new SAT is quite different from the old test:

  • Vocabulary is no longer tested explicitly

  • Reading includes at least one foundational document and is more focused on identifying evidence for claims

  • The Writing section has shifted from an emphasis on 16 specific rules to more common “school”-related concepts like uses of the comma and identifying antecedents

  • Math now has two sections - with and without calculator

  • Essay: Like the old test, the new test has an essay – but this time it’s optional, and 50 minutes instead of 25

  • Scoring: The new test is scored out of 1600 points, while the old SAT is scored out of 2400 points

  • Format: In lieu of the old test’s nine sections (plus one experimental section, for a total of ten), the new test now has four sections: one extended reading comprehension section, one extended writing/composition/grammar section, and two math sections – one with a calculator and one without

Q:  Which is harder: the ACT or the redesigned SAT?

As the SAT was redesigned, the focus was obviously on making it competitive with the ACT, as now there are a lot of overlaps between the tests.  

  • SAT Reading now has no dedicated vocabulary section

  • SAT Writing and Math are more closely tailored to what you learn in school

  • SAT Writing tests more practical applications of writing concepts

  • SAT Math includes less geometry

  • SAT Math tests fewer concepts overall

As such, we believe the new SAT remains a solid choice for students and parents on the fence, and we’re happy to offer consultations and talk through the differences in the two tests and why a specific test may be a solid fit for a specific student.

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Q: Talk more about the redesigned SAT (out of 1600): How hard is it? How is it different is it from the old SAT (out of 2400)?

According to SSA Executive Director Alyssa Bowlby, who has taught the SAT professionally since 2006 and the ACT since 2008:

It's my strongly held opinion that the redesigned SAT is actually easier: the changes to the math have made it simpler for a lot of kids - we will still need to distinguish between cogitation and calculation, but the topics which are tested are more related to algebra (there's very little geometry on the test, as compared to the old SAT) and more like what they learn in school and what they see in their math books. Also, the math isn't as advanced as it was - the topics queried are not as far along in the high school curricular progression - and those concepts they've added include things like an emphasis on basic statistics and graph-reading, at which most people are intuitively good. 

They've also started asking the question "why" - a concept that you can think of as "logical roles" - all over math itself. I'll give you an example. Let's say we're doing a word problem, and there's a scatterplot with a line of best fit and that line has the equation y=3x + 4. The SAT will now ask "In the context of this setup, what does the 4 mean?" It's the starting value - before you can calculate the change from 1 to 2, or even 0 to 1, you have to start with 4. So if we're talking about hailing a cab on Broadway, that might be the taxi's flat fee before you start getting charged for the mileage. I, as a Socratic educator, actually think this is an AMAZING question - because we do better as human beings when we'e constantly asking and answering the question "why"! :) Kids who are able to ask these questions do better in high school and college, as well as real life! These are the critical thinking/higher order thinking skills we're always talking about. So to know that test prep will actually make a student a better thinker elevates prepping for the SAT to an actually educational experience (and the fact that test prep was a bunch of quick fixes and small tricks has long been a critique of test prep; I think this will help us counter that perception).

The writing section of the SAT has changed tremendously - in fact, it now is almost exactly identical to the ACT.  

The reading section is still the toughest section (and always will be, because it's completely dependent on a sixteen-year-old's accumulated reading skills - how fast you read and how well you comprehend what you've read), but it has gotten somewhat simpler - the questions themselves are worded more simply and a lot of the difficult vocabulary was removed from the answer choices. And obviously everyone is very happy that there are no more vocab lists to memorize for the reading!