SATofficial study guideA Longer and More Difficult

SAT is Coming

Students across the country are preparing for a new, more challenging SAT that will debut in March, the first major revision of the college admissions exam in a decade.

The College Board, which administers the SAT, decided last year that the test needed to better reflect what students are learning in class, particularly as most states have adopted Common Core State Standards.

Among the biggest changes: Obscure vocabulary is no longer a primary focus. Now students must analyze text and show that they understand how the author uses words in passages.

Math will focus on problem solving, data analysis and algebra. There will be more graphics and more word problems in the math sections than in the old test.


One of the key changes to the SAT is that the essay section, which has grown from 25 to 50 minutes, is optional for most students. Only 13 percent of the nation’s schools, including University of California campuses, require the essay for admission.

SAT test scores also will return to the 400 to 1,600 scale, while PSAT scores will range from 320 to 1,520. There is no longer a penalty for incorrect answers which makes it similar to the ACT Test.

85 %t of parents and college-bound students in the U.S. were unaware the SAT is changing. Some students who know about the change are considering taking the old SAT before the end of January.

Students can always take both the old and new SAT tests, keeping the best score.  Some take it four, five or six times and some colleges will take the best English score from one test and the best math score from another.

Most colleges plan to accept both the old and new SAT tests for a few years.

My best tip for students: “Don’t use the old prep books. There are major changes.”

The changes to the new test include a math section with questions with multiple parts and as many as five clues in them.  Problems in the old test contained only two clues.

It’s helpful to read one sentence at a time and to take notes as you go to glean important information.

The English portion has lengthier passages, he said, but includes less obscure words that are more commonly used in high school and college.

The changes come as the SAT – once the primary college admissions exam – lost ground to the ACT in recent years.  1.85 million high school graduates in the class of 2014 took the ACT, while 1.67 million took the SAT.

The SAT redesign is geared toward assessing the knowledge and skills students need in college.