Major changes coming to the SAT in spring 2016

College Board President David Coleman has announced the first major changes to the SAT since 2005, when the writing section was added and the total possible score increased to 2400.  The redesigned SAT will focus on skills necessary for college and career readiness and will be modeled on the work that students complete in difficult high school courses.

Important elements of the SAT redesign include:

  • A switch back to the old 1600 scale.
  • Three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • The essay will be optional.  It will take 50 minutes to complete, and will ask the student to analyze evidence from a source and examine the persuasive abilities of the author’s argument.
  • The test will take approximately 3 hours to complete, with an additional 50 minutes for the optional essay.
  • In the evidence-based reading and writing section, students will have to support answers with evidence drawn directly from the passage.
  • SAT vocabulary will move from more obscure words to words that students are likely to use in college, like “synthesize”.
  • Math will focus on a few areas only: arithmetic, algebra, functions, and proportional thinking, among others.  Calculators will not be allowed on some math sections.
  • No more guessing penalty.
  • The test will be available on paper and on computer by spring 2016.

As you can see, these are major changes from the current version of the SAT.  Students who are taking the SAT this year and next year, these changes will not apply to you.  Don’t worry, and keep doing what you’re already doing!  Students who will take the SAT in spring 2016 (mainly current high school freshmen), this SAT redesign will apply to you.

The College Board will release more information about the new SAT on April 16, including sample problems.  Over the next two years before the redesigned SAT is released, the College Board will make sample problems and materials available to guide your preparation.

The College Board also plans to offer free practice SAT material in partnership with Khan Academy over the coming year to assist students with SAT prep, as part of their goal to level the playing field among all students taking the SAT.  This is a great idea, and we support more transparency surrounding the SAT prep process.  However, we also believe that there will always be a need for expert assistance from those familiar with the test and with your specific needs as a test-taker, and a need for structure and accountability in a test-preparation program.

We here at AJ Tutoring are looking forward to bringing our Bay Area clients more information about the redesigned SAT when it becomes available in April.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about how the new SAT will impact your preparation (or any questions about the old SAT!), feel free to call us at (650) 331-3251, or email  We’re excited about helping our students through the changes to the SAT!

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