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Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT: Part I

Should students take the new SAT when it’s released next spring? That’s the question many rising sophomores and juniors are asking, and they’re finding it difficult to come to a solid conclusion – especially after the problems with the June 6 SAT this summer. IvyWise is here to help, with a two part breakdown of the changes coming to the SAT and what students and parents can expect from the new test in 2016.

What’s important for families to realize is that the changes coming to the SAT in 2016 aren’t just one or two minor tweaks – it’s a major overhaul that will take some getting used to. There was much upheaval when the SAT was last revised in 2005, as the test’s structure and scoring completely changed. This time will be no different. In Part I of this Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT series, we’ll cover the mechanical changes coming to the SAT in 2016, including scections, scoring, timing, and more, and next month we’ll go more in-depth with the changes coming to the content, themes, and more.

What’s changing?
In short: Just about everything. The new SAT will have a new scoring structure, no required essay, new sections, new content, and more. This overhaul comes after the ACT surpassed the SAT as the most popular college entrance exam for the first time in 2012 – and has been on top ever since. In addition to aligning with the Common Core, some have asserted that the SAT is also trying to better compete with the ACT and regain that market share that it has lost over the past few years.

Here’s a breakdown of the mechanics on the old SAT, the new SAT, and the ACT.

Sections Critical Reading, Math, Writing, Required Essay Math, Reading, Writing, Optional Essay (Science passages embedded in all sections.) English, Math, Reading, Science, Optional Essay
Time 3 hours 45 minutes 3 hours, +50 minutes with essay 2 hours 55 min, +30 minutes with essay
Answering 5 answer options,
¼ point deduction for incorrect answer
4 answer options, no point deduction 4 answer options, no point deduction
Scoring Out of 2400: 800 per section Out of 1600: 800 math, 800 reading/writing Out of 36: 36 per section that is then averaged for composite
Math Section Two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. 44 multiple choice questions and10 grid-ins. Calculator allowed on all sections. Two sections: One calculator allowed, one no calculator; 80 minutes; Less geometry, more algebra, pre-calculus & trigonometry added One 60-question, 60-minute section. Tests pre-algebra through trigonometry. Calculator allowed entire time.
Reading Section Vocabulary sentence completion and 7 short and long reading passages. No more sentence completion or complicated vocabulary. 5 passages, 2 with charts/diagrams, 1 historic document 4 long passages with questions that require students to recall what they read. Questions in random order
Science Section No science section. No science section, however science-related passages will be peppered throughout the exam. Science section covers reasoning, charts and graphs, and hypothesis.


So, which test should I take?
Currently, we are advising students to take the SAT before the changes go into effect in March 2016, or to take the ACT. However, only students who are actually ready to take the current SAT should do so. There is bound to be a rush of students taking the current SAT before it’s discontinued in the spring, however, students should only take the SAT if they’re truly prepared. If not, the ACT is the better option than the new SAT. Here’s why:

  • There are few resources available to help students prep for the new SAT. While The College Board has released four practice tests through Khan Academy, these are the only official practice materials currently available. These same tests are also in the new Official SAT Study Guide released in June. In addition to these tests, Khan Academy will release four additional practice tests between now and March. These are the only reliable prep materials, as other companies won’t have as much information to create accurate materials. On the other hand, there’s a lot of official ACT material available to students, generated by the ACT and other test prep organizations.
  • The College Board is still making adjustments to the new SAT. They’re releasing prep material, so it is relatively set in stone, but they could continue to make minor changes over the next few months.
  • There are bound to be growing pains. The June 6 SAT debacle didn’t do much to instill confidence in families and educators that The College Board is equipped to handle a major test overhaul and the issues that can come with it. Should there be a problem with the first few exams, parents and students will only have a short window in which to get them resolved before applications are due.
  • Scoring comparisons for old and new tests won’t be readily available. The table comparing old and new SAT scores will only be released in summer of 2016, so students in the class of 2017 who have taken the old and new tests won’t really have a sense of how they’re doing until then. Class of 2017 students should really just stick to the ACT because of this. Also, colleges will have to figure out how to compare the new and old scores for students who took both tests, and while they’ll use the concordance table and will accept both scores, it’s safer to take the ACT to avoid the uncertainty involved in how The College Board will create the concordance.
  • Scores will be delayed. Students who take the first test in March 2016 won’t receive their scores until after the May 2016 test has taken place, as The College Board needs to calibrate their scoring by comparing the two exams. So, students who take the March test won’t know where they stand or how to improve before the May test, meaning they’ll need to wait until June to retake if necessary. May test scores will also likely be delayed so that The College Board has additional time to figure out their scale. ACT scores will be reported on time as usual.
  • All four-year colleges that accept the SAT also accept the ACT. There’s been a lot of misinformation over the years that colleges prefer one test over the other. In fact, as far as colleges are concerned, the ACT and the SAT are interchangeable. So, taking the ACT instead of the SAT will not affect your admissions chances.

While there’s a lot of uncertainty and confusion surrounding this huge change, the best thing that parents and students can do is stay informed and seek professional guidance should they feel they need more direction. At IvyWise, we’re working hard to stay abreast of the SAT changes and prepare our students for the new test. Need help deciding which test to take? Or looking for test prep to prepare for the exams this fall and spring? Contact us today for more information on our tutoring services!

Want to know what else is changing on the SAT in 2016? Check out Part II of our series!

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