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Home > New SAT vs. Old SAT

A lot of the focus on the SAT the last couple of years has been centered around concerns about the so-called “new” SAT. Many students and parents are confused about the nature of the changes made to the SAT by the College Board and how colleges will react to different score curves on the SAT.

We’re here to tell you that despite the label “new,” not much about the SAT has changed, with a few major exceptions. We will list the four important changes below, but just know this: colleges still expect you to score well on the SAT, new or old, in comparison to other test-takers. That is, you should not spend your time worrying about how colleges will view your performance – you should work on improving your performance on the test regardless of your old score.

Here are the four big changes on the “New SAT:”

1. The Writing Section

It’s no secret that the biggest change on the new SAT is the addition of an entirely new, scored section on the test that covers grammar and English sentence construction. This section is aptly titled the “Writing” section; you will receive a separate score for your performance in “Writing.” It is scored on an 800-point scale and includes an objective component as well as a short writing assessment known as the“Essay Section.” College Board included the new section in response to the requests of many admissions officers to make some sort of English assessment mandatory. In the past, SAT Writing was a separate subject test structured very similarly to the current Writing Section. Now that the subject test has been integrated into SAT Reasoning, colleges will look to the Writing section to determine a student’s skill with the English language.

2. Length

Thanks to the Writing Section and extended Reading and Math sections of the SAT, the test is longer as a whole – in fact, the total length of testing is just under four hours. As such, the SAT has become something of a marathon, and many students complain about “brain strain” after such a long test. The only way you can prepare for the length of the test is by practicing under the timing conditions that you will experience on test days: that means practice testing. Most studies show that practice testing is the single most important factor in SAT preparation; you certainly do not want to be among the people who are not prepared! So, the best advice we can give you about handling the long time of testing is to practice for it.

3. Harder Math Section

The College Board decided that the math section on the SAT I of old was a bit too easy as many students were scoring perfect raw scores, leading to test grade inflation. In addition, college admissions officers complained that the test did not actually assess math skills but how a student’s nerved fared under pressure. In turn, the College Board decided to make the SAT Mathematics section slightly harder, including topics from Algebra II and a bit more geometry. However, the changes were very minor, and actually unlikely to severely affect the majority of students taking the test. Still, you should be familiar with topics up to Algebra II including factoring, simplification, and solving for roots of quadratics.

4. No More Analogies!

One of the big changes you should be pleased with is the decision to remove analogies from the SAT Critical Reading section. Analogies were questions that tested you both on your knowledge of vocabulary and your ability to logically compare the meanings of words. Critics of analogy questions complained that they would not be employed in “real life” and that they were biased towards certain socio-economic groups. In response, the College Board replaced the analogies with sentence completion questions. Sentence Completion questions test a student’s knowledge of vocabulary in context, which is considered more appropriate and indicative of a student’s knowledge.


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