The New SAT: what should students expect?

Standardized testing is every high school student’s nightmare. Now, after years of compulsive studying, cramming and stressing by teenagers all over the world, the cornerstone of testing for U.S. colleges is about to transform.

As of March 2016, the SAT as we know it will no longer exist. The redesigned test was announced in 2014 and has been constructed to guide students into applying their knowledge, not just displaying it. According to Time, students will be asked to provide reasoning behind their answers and show a deeper understanding of their knowledge through free response questions, which contrasts the old multiple-choice based SAT.

High school counselor Trevor Sturgeon said, “The structure of the new SAT is becoming more like the ACT. Under the old SAT, historically, the SAT was more tricky, less direct. It  was more a test of your test-taking ability than anything else. It wasn’t really content driven, while the ACT is more content focused.”

According to the College Board, the new version has been developed to cater to students’ future success and to create a stronger connection with what is being learned in high school. In addition to this, the test will be more reading based. After a section with long passages, students will proceed to the writing section, followed by a rigorous math segment without a break.

The now-optional essay has also been reconstructed, revolving around a reading passage that will then be analyzed by the students in their essay. Because of this, the highest possible score is now 1600, rather than 2400.

Junior Rhea Singh said, “I wanted to get the SAT over with before the second semester of my junior year.” Photo by Diya Navlakha

Junior Rhea Singh chose to take the old version of the test. A big reason for this was the essay. “The changes mean no essay, which is my biggest strength, so that would be a really big hindrance if I didn’t have that.”

Some colleges have made the optional essay a requirement with the modified SAT. Schools such as Harvard, NYU, Princeton, and Pomona have decided that the essay is mandatory. This impacts the decisions that students make regarding the colleges they would like to apply to.

There are several other key differences. The old SAT had essay questions based on morality and voicing opinions on a particular topic. In comparison, the new SAT brings a more analytical angle, in which students are expected to analyze a passage and support their claim.

Another small but crucial difference is the scoring. In contrast to the old test, there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers in the new version. Before, there would be ¼ of a point taken off for each question answered incorrectly. Additionally, there are now four multiple choice answers instead of five.

As a result of the major changes being implemented, The College Board has collaborated with Khan Academy to offer free practice for those taking the new test. There is a combination of practice tests, interactive questions, quizzes, and feedback for students to track their progress as they prepare to take the test.

There is also a range of informational and interactive videos to aid students in gaining a better understanding of the new test. Here is one of them:

The redesigned test means major changes for the class of 2017 and the students that follow. Not only does this impact student decisions on when they want to take their tests, but it also forces them to make choices regarding how they want to take it.

For juniors, the decision on which test to take will be harder, as the new test releases halfway through their second semester. This puts a timestamp on when they should take the test and how they can retake it. Mr. Sturgeon said, “The SAT and the ACT are both designed as second-semester junior year tests. Almost everyone does better the later they do it.”

The Washington Post offers a quiz to determine which test is better suited for you – take it here.

“I chose the new one because I’m not really a fan of how the old SAT tries to trick you,” said Junior Jason Debrito. Photo by Diya Navlakha

Junior Jason Debrito decided to take the new test. “I like how the new one is more straightforward,” said Jason.

There have been a range of reactions regarding this shift in standardized testing – some have scrambled to take the test early, some are content with facing whatever changes are thrown at them, and some in the classes of 2018 and 2019 in particular aren’t even aware of the modifications.

“I think you start to think about [college] a lot more in sophomore year as opposed to freshman year because you get a lot more information about it from your counselors and teachers, like they let you know when there’s a college visiting, so it comes up a lot more in your life,” said sophomore Avanya Rao, who, like many others in her class, are aware of the new SAT but not of specific changes.

While the facts are there, no one can predict the effects of the new SAT until it is implemented. It is now up to the classes of 2017 and 2018 to decide for themselves which version of the SAT they want to take.

However, Mr. Sturgeon highlighted the ACT as an alternative. “For juniors this year, we recommend that they do the ACT in April next year. The reason for that is that we know what the ACT is, and there’s lots of test prep material and lots of past exams that are available to help prep [unlike the new SAT].” So for those who want to play it safe, there is always the ACT.

Author: Diya Navlakha

Diya Navlakha is a junior in her tenth year at SAS. This is her second year as a part of The Eye. While originally from India, Diya spent her childhood in New York City and Singapore. A few of her hobbies include watching "Friends", baking, and spending time with friends and family. She can be contacted at

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