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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Breaking down the changes to the SAT

Earlier today, the College Board announced a bunch of changes to the SAT that will bring back the 1600-point scoring scale, make the essay optional, and narrow the focus and scope of topics covered on the exam. The reasons for this change are myriad and complicated, but in practical terms, here’s what you need to know about how the SAT’s will change. The key takeaways are bolded.

The Basics

  • New tests will begin in spring 2016
  • No more writing section
  • Two sections: Math, and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Essay section is now optional and scored separately – but colleges might still require it
  • Scored out of 1600
  • No more guessing penalty
  • Can be taken on paper or on the computer
  • Test will last 180 minutes (3 hours) with an optional 50-minute essay


  • The new essay asks you to analyze a source document, not respond to a prompt with a persuasive essay
  • You’ll have to read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument, using evidence from the text
  • The prompt will be the same for every test and it will be shared in advance, only the passage will change


  • No more sentence completions
  • Students will instead be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on context clues in passages


  • The math test will not cover as many math topics but instead on three specific areas
  • Data Analysis and Problem Solving – using ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems – basically using and interpreting data
  • The Heart of Algebra – mastering linear equations and systems – basically linear equations, and systems of equations
  • Passport to Advanced Math – more complex equations and the manipulation they require – basically knowing and using things like quadratics, polynomial equations, area formulas, and the like

Critical Reading and Writing

  • No more standalone writing section
  • New question types
  • Selecting the quote from the passage that best supports the answer to a previous question
  • Analyze sequences of paragraphs to make sure that they are grammatically correct
  • Interpreting graphics and editing passages to accurately convey information in graphics

Topics Covered

  • Instead of just literature, topics will be more relevant to the real world
  • Some graphics and questions in the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections will require analysis of science and social studies topics
  • One passage will always be a Founding Document (stuff like the Constitution or Declaration of Independence) or about a Great Global Conversation (justice, equality, human dignity, freedom, et. al)

This graphic from the College Board also summarizes the changes:

Image Credit: College Board
Image Credit: College Board

Admissions Hero will have more coverage of the SAT changes in the coming days.

Preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.

Zack Perkins
Business Development Head