Students taking the SAT on March 5th will see a new and completely redesigned SAT test.  Many parents have contacted us regarding their concerns about this new test, and there is a lot of misinformation floating around!  Here is a quick comparison of the new and old SAT test so that you can know what to expect on test day!

new sat, sat, test


The general format of the SAT has changed making it more streamlined with fewer sections.

Old Reading

  • Three reading sections:
    • two 25 minute sections with 24 sentence completion and passage questions
    • one 20 minute section with 19 sentence completion and passage questions

New Reading

  • One reading section:
    • 65 minutes with 52 questions related to a passage, table or graph

Old Math

  • Three math sections:
    • a 25 minute section with 20 multiple choice questions
    • a 25 minute section with 18 multiple choice and grid-in questions
    • a 20 minute section with 16 multiple choice questions

New Math

  • Two math sections:
    • 25 minute no calculator math section with 20 multiple choice and grid-in questions
    • 55 minute calculator math section with 38 multiple choice and grid-in questions

Old Writing

  • Three required writing sections:
    • 25 minute writing with 35 multiple choice questions on correctness of expression, grammar, usage, and essay corrections
    • 10 minute writing with 14 multiple choice questions on correctness of expression
    • 25 minute essay asking you to develop a point of view on a topic or quote

New Writing

  • One required section:
    • 35 minute writing and language test with 44 multiple choice questions on making corrections
  • One optional essay:
    • 50 minute optional essay that requires you to read and analyze a passage



  • The biggest change to the reading content is that there are no longer any sentence completion questions and vocabulary is embedded.  There are now charts and graphs within the reading section that students have to interpret and analyze in order to answer questions.


  • The biggest change to the math portion of the test is that there is now a calculator and a non-calculator section.  The non-calculator section tests more basic math concepts, fluency with math procedures, and number sense.


  • The biggest change to the writing section is that the essay now contains a passage, students have 50 minutes, and it is optional.


Old Test

  • Scored 200-800 for the math, reading, and writing tests for a total of 600-2400
  • Guessing penalty on most questions (not grid-in) of ¼ point.  One point for each correct answer and zero points for skipped.

New Test

  • Math scored 200-800
  • Reading and Writing combined in a 200-800 score for a total of 400-1600; (Yes, just like the old SAT you took!)
  • Optional Essay scored 2-8.

The Good News

  • No more obscure vocabulary in isolation, only “high utility words”.  Goodbye to words like “licentiousness”.  Hello “best” and “rule”.
  • Fewer sections to go through.
  • Four answer choices instead of 5 = Better odds.
  • No guessing penalty for wrong answers.  Less strategy; more straightforward.
  • Grammar is counted with reading.  (In case you don’t realize why this is good, it is a lot easier to improve your grammar score than your overall reading comprehension.  This gives kids a fast way to improve their reading score.)
  • Optional essay.
  • Less obscure Geometry questions.  More Algebra. (Wait is that good?  Depends on how much you like Algebra).

The Bad News

  • If you don’t read well, this test has many more words.  This means more math word problems too.
  • More advanced math concepts such as trigonometry and statistics mean that the SAT now covers math from more high school courses.
  • No calculator for some math problems.  As in,  if you use one in class, practice not using one!
  • Essay looks more like an AP test.  Students can no longer get by on writing skills alone as they must cite evidence.

Bottom Line:  It is still the SAT, a test designed to have a wide distribution of scores.  It is still looooong and the best way to do your best is to prepare!

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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