The College Board introduced the newest iteration of the SAT in March 2016. The new SAT stresses the skills that are most important for college preparedness and success based on the latest research. It has been redesigned to emphasize different content and subject matter from the old version. Wondering what’s different on the new SAT, and how to prepare for it? Read on for more information, as well as tips for success.

Differences between the new and old SAT tests

The new SAT consists of Reading, Writing and Language, and Math tests. There is also an optional essay section that some colleges require you take in order to be considered for admission. (You can search by school on the College Board’s website to find out if you need to complete the essay for a particular college.)

Instead of scoring on a scale from 600 to 2400, like the previous SAT, the new SAT uses a scale of 400 to 1600. This number represents the sum of your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (based on the Reading and Writing and Language tests) and your Math (based on the Math test) scores. You will also receive sub-scores for each section to better understand your strengths and areas to improve. Your essay receives a score from 2 to 8 on each of three dimensions: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. The College Board website offers more information about understanding scores and comparing them to the old SAT scoring system.

One important new feature of scoring is that there is no longer a penalty for guessing wrong. That means you earn points for correct answers and won’t receive any deductions for incorrect answers, so it is in your best interest to answer every question.

The old SAT length was three hours and 45 minutes. The new SAT is three hours, plus 50 minutes for the essay if you elect to complete it.

The new SAT emphasizes some different skills from the previous version. Key content features include:

*Words in context: Questions ask you to identify the meaning of a word given the context. The words are ones you will use in college and the workplace. This is a departure from the previous version of the test, which asked students to learn and memorize obscure and rarely used words.

*Command of evidence: The Reading, Writing and Language, and Essay sections ask you to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in sources. These sources are generally work- and career-oriented, and may include informational graphics, such as tables, charts, and graphs, and passages about literature, nonfiction, the humanities, science, history, and social studies.

*Essay analyzing a source: The Essay focuses on building your analytic writing and close reading skills. You will be asked to understand and analyze how an author uses evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive elements.

*Math that matters most: The Math section tests math that is used in a wide range of majors in careers. The key areas include Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. This section also contains questions that require geometric and trigonometric skills that may be relevant to college mathematics sequences and varied careers.

*Problems grounded in real-world contexts: Questions in each section relate directly to real-world subjects and work performed in college and careers.

*Analysis in science and in history/social studies: You will need to apply your reading, writing, language, and math knowledge and skills to answer questions regarding science, history, and social studies. Specific questions may ask you to read and understand texts, revise texts to be consistent with data presented in graphics, synthesize information presented through texts and graphics, and solve problems that are grounded in science and social science.

*U.S. founding documents and the great global conversation: The test will include a passage from U.S. founding documents, such as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, or texts from speeches of leaders like Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Nelson Mandela, and Mohandas Gandhi, who influenced global discourse on matters like freedom, justice, and human dignity. This gives students the opportunity to reflect on and engage with issues important to informed citizenship.

Tips to prepare for the new SAT

The new SAT does not ask you to memorize obscure words and tricks. Instead, the College Board advises the following:

  • Take challenging courses.
  • Do your homework.
  • Prepare for tests and quizzes.
  • Ask and answer lots of questions.

Of course, there are still a few more things you can and should do to prepare for the SAT. It is important to note that SAT prep resources and books may no longer be helpful if they were published before March 2016, so you should try to find newer resources if you would like to invest in a study aid. Additionally, you might try a few of the tips below to gear up for the test and do your best:

  • Determine specific plans and goals for your preparation process: Set a plan for studying, and create benchmarks along the way so you know you are on track.
  • Keep a steady schedule: Do a few practice problems or other preparation every day, rather than having a couple marathon study sessions or cramming at the very end.
  • Take practice tests: Using real practice tests while replicating the timing and environment will help you get used to the test, so there won’t be any surprises or discomfort on the day you take it.
  • Look for examples of successful and unsuccessful essays: Learning from others’ mistakes can be very helpful.
  • Join or start an SAT study group: Studying with your peers helps reinforce information and makes you and your peers accountable to one another.
  • Download the Official Daily Practice app from College Board: This free smartphone app gives you one question a day and provides an explanation of the answer. Download it here.
  • Receive free Official SAT prep materials through the Khan Academy website: This new partnership makes plenty of resources, including videos, available for free. Click here to create an account.
  • Take an organized SAT prep course through your high school or in your community.
  • Engage a private SAT tutor to help you focus your preparation: The CollegeVine SAT Tutoring Program is one of the most comprehensive SAT prep programs in the nation. Click here for more information or to sign up.

Check out College Board’s study guide for sample tests, questions, and other tips.

Keep in mind…

Don’t worry if you took the SAT before March 2016 and were happy with your scores. Colleges will still accept them in lieu of the new SAT for at least a couple years. However, you should still confirm with the colleges on your list.

If you would like more guidance and help preparing for the SAT, be sure to check out CollegeVine’s SAT Tutoring Program. You will be paired with two private tutors, one for Verbal (Reading, English, and Writing) and one for Math. These experts come from top 30 colleges and universities and received scores in the 99th percentile on their SATs, and will give you plenty of strategies and practice to ace the test. Click here for more information.

To learn more about the SAT and taking standardized tests, check out CollegeVine’s blog posts below:

What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior: Part I—Academics and Standardized Tests

ACT to SAT Conversion Table

Can a Good SAT/ACT Score Offset a Bad GPA?

When Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine