New SAT vs old sat 10 things you need to know

Top 10 New SAT Changes You Should Know About: in Infographics


By now you’ve surely heard the news. The SAT has changed. January 2016 marked the final date for students to take the old SAT exam. Starting in March 2016, the New SAT was the only option administered.

It’s the biggest change to the SAT test in quite a long time, impacting students in the class of 2017 or later.

Watch a quick video overview of the infographics in this blog [time – 6:24]…start 15 seconds in:


When I was in high school in the late 90’s the SAT was a maximum of 1600 points and we had these terrible things called “analogies.” Cat is to kitten, as dog is to ___.

But, of course, way harder.

Parents, raise your hand if you remember these! 🙂 ✋


In 2005, the exam underwent a big change and the top score became 2400. Analogies were dropped. Some Algebra II concepts were added. Critical Reading and Math were joined by a third section: Writing. This brought along with it the mandatory essay.


Now, in 2016, we see some more dramatic changes. It is switching back to the two major sections of Reading (renamed Evidence-Based Reading & Writing) and Math.

The top score again is 1600. And the essay is optional.

But let’s dive in deeper.

Let’s look at 10 important SAT test changes that you should know about the New SAT via #infographic form!


Top 10 New SAT Changes You Should Know About: Compare & Contrast [Infographics]

the new sat versus the old sat infographic 1

As shown in the infographic above, here are some important New SAT vs. Old SAT facts that you should know about!

1. New SAT: 2 main sections = Math & Evidence-Based Reading & Writing

Old SAT: 3 main sections = Math, Critical Reading, & Writing

2. New SAT: score ranges from 400 to 1600

Old SAT: score ranged from 600 to 2400

3. New SAT: can be taken with a pencil and paper like always plus a new option to take the exam via computer

Old SAT: could only be taken with a pencil and paper

4. New SAT: the exam takes 3 hours unless you stay for the optional essay, then it’s 3 hours and 50 minutes total

Old SAT: the exam took 3 hours and 45 minutes for all students and the essay was required

5. New SAT: No penalty for incorrect answers. That means, guess away! (educated guesses, of course)
New SAT: Now there are only 4 answer choices per problem: A, B, C, D

Old SAT: 1/4 point penalty for all incorrect answers. That meant that students had to be careful about guessing and just leave questions unanswered if they were not sure.
Old SAT: There were 5 answer choices per problem: A, B, C, D, E

6. New SAT: The essay is 50 minutes long and optional. It asks you to analyze another essay and look for evidence given to support the argument made

Old SAT: The essay was only 25 minutes and required. You had to answer a prompt and cite evidence from memory or personal experience.

Teacher Commentary:

As I have worked on developing curriculum to help students prepare for the New SAT, I have gotten up close and personal with the exam and its question types. (A bit more than I would like, admittedly! But if my sacrifice will lead to your getting a higher score, then it’s all worth it! ;))

Overall, I can definitely say that there are less obscure and esoteric vocabulary words, so no more need to study vocab lists ad nauseam. #hooray

I love that there are fewer answer choices per problem (one less option to give mental energy to eliminating or keeping is a great thing) and I love that there’s no penalty for incorrect answers. This alone should reduce some test anxiety and let students focus on answering as best they can and moving on.

Great. So let’s look even more closely at the differences between the New and Old SAT in terms of time, number of questions, and types of problems in infographic number 2.

the new sat versus the old sat infographic 2

7. New SAT: (4 sections, plus optional essay)
Each test follows the same format of Reading, then Writing, then Math (no calculator), and then Math (yes calculator). Then for those students who are opting in for the essay, they stay for the essay at the very end.

Old SAT: (10 sections, including required essay)
Each test started with the required essay. From there, there were always 3 Math (yes calculator), 3 Critical Reading, and 2 Writing with an extra section thrown in. It could be any of the types and it did not count toward your score, but you would have no idea which this ‘extra’ section was. And the order of things was variable and unpredictable.

8. New SAT: Reading = 65 minutes, 52 questions.
All questions are based on passages. There are vocabulary questions but in context of a passage. And some passages include data or a chart that needs to be interpreted.

Old SAT: Reading = 70 minutes, 67 questions.
Many questions were based on passages, but they also have sentence completion problems which were stand-alone sentences that tested more difficult and obscure vocabulary.

9. New SAT: Writing = 35 minutes, 44 questions + optional essay.
The New SAT writing questions are also more passage-based in testing grammar, structure, and punctuation.

Old SAT: Writing = 60 minutes, 49 questions + required essay.
Students had to fix sentences which, for the most part, stood in isolation (not in paragraphs or passage form).

10. New SAT: Math = 80 minutes, 58 questions.
Math questions on the New SAT are more multi-step, have tons of word problems, and include higher level concepts than before, like trigonometry.

Old SAT: Math = 70 minutes, 54 questions.
The old SAT tested topics in Arithmetic, Algebra 1, Geometry, and a little from Algebra 2.

Teacher Commentary:

The New SAT exam is far more passage-happy than ever before. Not only are the Reading and Writing sections solely passage based, now far more math problems are word problems too. They really are putting an emphasis on being able to read, understand, and translate information to demonstrate deeper grasps of important concepts.

There are also fewer opportunities for ‘test-taking tricks’ to apply. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t still strategies and performance enhancement that comes from focused practice and review. That still holds true, as with any exam.

To get you started on mastering the new SAT for higher test scores that result in more scholarships and entrance into better schools, here are a few resources:

Questions? Comment below!

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Laura earned a Master's degree in Secondary Education plus Teaching Certification for Mathematics and Psychology in both AZ and CA. Her undergraduate work was in Psychology with a minor in German from UCLA where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been tutoring since the 90's, was a high school teacher 2006-2011, and still teaches for a local college. Laura is passionate about teaching, learning, entrepreneurship, and traveling the world with her husband, their dog Tuck, and her Macbook Pro. -- Join Laura on Linkedin & Twitter!

Comments 4

  1. I am so glad that the new SAT doesn’t use obscure vocabulary words, because that was the hardest part for me back when I had to take it. I felt like there were so many words that it included that we don’t actually use in every day life. Other than being slightly easier, what are the main benefits of all of the above changes and how does it affect the scores that colleges will accept?

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