The New SAT: What You Need to Know

Did you know the SAT is changing in March 2016? Find out what this means for your high school student, what new prep tools are available, and how you can help them prepare.

According the College Board, their members, including admission officers, school counselors, teachers, and students, have called on them to change the SAT and go beyond assessment to deliver opportunity.

Good News:

New SATKhan Academy, an online education nonprofit, has partnered with the College Board to provide free online study prep tools. Allowing for students to:

  • Get to know the redesigned SAT
  • See personalized practice recommendations
  • Practice anytime, anywhere, at no cost


Students have had access to some free online SAT prep tools for years. But Khan says the close cooperation with the College Board will make his prep courses a lot more useful and relevant. The new partnership aims to “disrupt” the test prep model.

“It’s more about learning the material than traditional test prep,” Khan says. “Not what test prep is traditionally associated with: tricks or test-taking strategies. But mainly the best way to perform well on something like the SAT is to have a mastery of the skills – the math, the reading and writing. That’s the goal. And hopefully it changes people’s perceptions about what test prep actually is.”

The offerings include four full-length practice tests, personalized practice recommendations tied to specific test skills, thousands of practice questions, video lessons, quizzes and more.

So, what are the changes to the redesigned SAT?

  • The essay section will now be optional
  • Students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers
  • Obscure SAT words that are little used in everyday conversation will be dropped. The emphasis now will be on relevant, useful vocabulary in context.

Here are some helpful FAQs from the College Board:

How will the essay section work?

Students will be asked to write an essay analyzing a source document. The essay prompt will be shared in advance and will remain consistent; only the passage will change. The Essay section will no longer be required by the College Board. However, many school districts and colleges will require students to complete the Essay.

Why is the essay optional?

The editing work students do in the multiple-choice Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section is deeply predictive of college success. However, one essay alone has not in the past contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.

How will SAT scores change?

The redesigned SAT will be scored on a 400- to 1600-point scale. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section will each be scored on a 200- to 800-point scale. Scores for the Essay section will be reported separately. Another important change is the move to rights-only scoring: There will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers.

Will wrong answers still lower SAT scores?

Wrong answers will no longer be deducted from a student’s score. The redesigned SAT will use rights-only scoring. Students will simply get points for the questions they answer correctly. Rights-only scoring encourages students to give the best answer they have to every problem, without risking a penalty for trying their best.

Can students take both the current SAT and the redesigned SAT and see which score is higher?

When the College Board switches over to the redesigned SAT in spring 2016, the current SAT will no longer be offered. However, some students will take the SAT before that time and then take the redesigned SAT later. Because the exam and score scale are changing, we recommend that these students send all scores, allowing colleges to use those that are most favorable to the student.

Is the PSAT changing too?

Yes, the PSAT will change with the SAT in October. This schedule will allow students to take the redesigned PSAT before the redesigned SAT.

Do all colleges require SAT scores?

No, there are more than 850 colleges and universities that no longer require SAT or ACT scores to make admissions decisions. The College Board, however, thinks its revisions and test prep changes could reverse that trend and make the SAT more relevant than ever.

“The SAT is just part of it,” says Sal Khan. “Grades, essays, recommendations are all super important.” The new SAT, he argues, focuses more on what students are actually learning; it “is pretty much a straightforward exam that tests you on what you’ve learned in school.”

Even with online resources available, many students still need dedicated time to focus on SAT preparation and improve their results with individual and personalized help. We’re here to provide that support as well as reinforce what is learned in school and help master any challenging subjects for your child. Contact us today with any questions and learn how our SAT prep will build confidence in your high school student.

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