SATofficial study guide

How Does the NEW SAT Compare to the Current SAT as well as the ACT?

When it is released in 2016, the SAT will be a significant change from the current test.  The redesign as well will affect how we determine whether a student is better suited for the SAT or ACT.  Here is a comparison of the new SAT to the current SAT and also the ACT.

DESCRIPTION:  The new SAT will still require similar skills and test similar content to that of the ACT and current SAT.  Many of the changes to the new SAT’s format will make it look a lot like the ACT, but the SAT will retain its focus as an aptitude test.  Among the biggest changes to the SAT are a sharper focus on critical-thinking, an emphasis on problem-solving and understanding context.  Comparatively, the ACT will remain more of an achievement test, requiring a broad knowledge of many concepts, as well as considerable speed and endurance.


Current SAT:  10 short sections

  • 3 critical reading; 3 math; 3 writing (including essay); 1 experimental (not scored)
  • Questions have 5 answer choices
  • Total testing time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

New SAT (Spring 2016):  5 long sections (comprising 3 “tests” and an optional essay)

  • Writing & language; reading; 2 math; essay
  • Questions have 4 answer choices
  • Total testing time:  3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)

ACT:  5 long sections (comprising 4 “tests” and an optional essay)

  • English; math; reading; science; writing (optional essay)
  • Most questions have 4 answer choices (math has 5)
  • Total testing time:  3 hours, 25 minutes (with essay)


Current SAT:  Combined score:  600 – 2400

  • Critical reading:  200 – 800;  Math 20-800: Writing:  200-800
  • Writing score comprised of multiple choice and essay sub-scores
  • 1/4 point deduction for incorrect answers

New SAT (Spring 2016): Combined score:  400-1600

  • Evidence based reading and writing; 200-800
  • Essay score reported separately
  • “Cross-test Scores” report performance on science and history/social studies across entire test
  • No deduction for incorrect answers

ACT:  Composite score:  1-36 (average of 4 tests)

  • English 1-36; math 1-36; reading 1-36; science 1-36
  • Writing score not factored into composite score
  • Combined English/writing score provided separately 1-36
  • No deduction for incorrect answers


Current SAT:  Identify and correct errors in single sentences

  • Standard English grammar and usage
  • Punctuation not tested
  • Limited and predicable set of errors

New SAT (Spring 2016):  Revise and edit a piece of writing for, logical structure and effective rhetoric

  • Standard English grammar and usage
  • Punctuation
  • Logical structure
  • Effective rhetoric
  • Includes informational graphics

ACT:  Revise and edit a piece of writing for logical structure and effective rhetoric

  • Standard English grammar and usage
  • Punctuation
  • Logical structure
  • Effective rhetoric
  • Commonly confused words


Current SAT:  Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry

  • Apply core math skills to solve mostly non-standard, ‘tricky’ problems
  • Formulas provided
  • 10 grid-in questions (no answer choices)

New SAT (Spring 2016):  Pre-algebra through basic trigonometry

  • Strong emphasis on Algebra
  • Calculator prohibited on one section
  • 12 grid-in questions (no answer choices)
  • 1 extended thinking question (4 points)

ACT:  Pre-algebra through basic trigonometry

  • Math tested in straightforward manner
  • Extensive range of concepts tested
  • Emphasis on word problems
  • Formulas not provided


Current SAT:  Vocabulary based sentence completions

  • Total of 7 short and long reading passages
  • Many inference, tone, purpose questions
  • Questions follow order of passage

New SAT (Spring 2016):  Vocabulary de-emphasized

  • 4 long passages and 1 paired passage
  • 2 passages include diagrams/charts
  • 1 passage from U.S. ‘founding document’

ACT:  4 long passages

  • Very little emphasis on vocabulary
  • Straightforward questions that require close reading of passage
  • Order of questions is random
  • Less time per question


Current SAT:  Has no science section

New SAT (Spring 2016):  The New SAT does not have stand-alone Science section, but Science questions will be included throughout the math, reading, writing & language tests

ACT:  40 questions distributed over 7 passages

  • Emphasis on charts, diagrams, etc.
  • Science is a reasoning test – rarely requires prior science knowledge


Current SAT:  25 minutes, always the first section

  • Broad theme
  • Can be approached formulaically or creatively

New SAT (Spring 2016):  50 minutes, always the last section

  • Analyze a passage and evaluate author’s reasoning and rhetoric
  • Students’ opinions discouraged
  • Essay is scored on 2-8 scale on three traits – reading, analysis and writing

ACT:  30 minutes, always the last test

  • Narrow topic relevant to high school students
  • Demands a more structured response
  • Optional, but required by most schools

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(949) 249-2130