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The Content and Structure of the New SAT

Posted by Sybil St. Hilaire on Sat, Apr 26, 2014

new sat   girl studying2014 has been a big year for the SAT. Earlier this year, The College Board announced its plans for the redesigned SAT. We outlined these planned changes in a recent blog. Since then, the College Board has released additional details about the structure and content of the new SAT as well as sample questions for each section.

The New SAT Structure

There are two major structural differences between the new SAT and the old SAT. The first is the removal of the SAT guessing penalty. Starting in the spring of 2016 (with the class of 2017), students will no longer lose points for incorrect responses. The second is a change in the number of answer choices. On each multiple-choice question students will choose their answer from four options instead of five. The new SAT will be scored on a 1600-point scale. See the table below for a fuller comparison between the current and redesigned SAT.

Comparison of the Major Features of the Current and New SAT


Current SAT


Total Testing Time


3 hours and 45 minutes

3 hours

Plus 50 minutes for optional essay


·   Critical Reading

·   Writing

·   Math

·   Essay

·   Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

·   Math

·   Essay (Optional)


·   Required

·   25 minutes, at the beginning of the SAT

·   Tests writing skills, students must take a position on a presented issue

·   Optional

·   50 minutes, at the end of the SAT

·   Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; students produce a written analysis of a provided source

Score Reporting

·   Total score ranges from 600 to 2400

·   Each section is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale

·   Total score ranges from 400 to 1600 points

·   Mandatory sections are scored on a 200 to 800 point scale

·   The essay is scored on a 2 to 8 point scale

·   Essay results are reported separately

Subscore Reporting

·   None

·   Subscores will be provided for each section of the test

Source: College Board 

The New SAT Reading & Writing Section

Vocabulary will continue to play an important role on the redesigned SAT, however the words on the test will be more familiar to students. Students will be tested for words that they are more likely to see at college and beyond. The new SAT will continue to test a student’s ability to understand vocab words in context, but will also place a greater emphasis on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact.

The reading section on the new SAT will include a passage from one of the following:

  1. the US founding documents (e.g., the Declaration of Independence)
  2. a text that is part of the “Great Global Conversation” (e.g., MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech)
  3. a work by an author outside of the United States who is addressing the topic of freedom, justice, or liberty

These passages will be used to test students on source analysis and evidence-use skills, according to The College Board, as a means to better assess college and career readiness.

The New SAT Math Section

The new SAT math section will be 80 minutes long and require students to answer 57 questions. Most questions will be multiple-choice and some will be free response. While the new math section is 10 minutes longer, students won’t be able to use their calculators for a 25-minute portion of the test. In terms of content, this section will have a heavy focus on algebra and analyzing, solving, and creating linear equations and inequalities. 

The New SAT Essay Section

The SAT Essay is now optional. Colleges and universities will decide whether they require it of their applicants or not. Students who do opt to take the essay will have 50 minutes to structure and write their essay instead of 25 minutes. The essay will no longer be based on a student’s personal opinion, instead test takers will be expected to read a passage, and analyze that source. Students must make evidence-based arguments and explain an author’s motives for taking a certain point of view.

Want to see additional details about the redesigned SAT? You can view all the changes and sample questions here.


Image & Table Source: The College Board; Google Images




Tags: For Students, For Parents, For Counselors

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