The New SAT: An Overview

"It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become far too disconnected from the work of our high schools. We aim to offer worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles."

- College Board President David Coleman

The New SAT

The College Board has announced significant changes to the SAT and will begin administering the new exam in Spring of 2016.  Most notably, in response to criticism, the College Board will make the writing section optional. For years, critics of the writing section, led by Dr. Les Perelman of M.I.T., have charged that the section has no bearing on real world writing applications - when was the last time you were given twenty minutes to write an essay on a topic on which you knew little?-  and that the grading was dependent on superficial characteristics such as handwriting clarity, essay length and word choice.

 After many studies showed the ineffectiveness of the section, the College Board caved and eliminated the writing section. 

Below we’ve copied a chart from the College Board’s website comparing the old and new SAT.  Also, we’ve listed useful resources for reading about the new SAT.  Happy SATing!

Comparison of the Current SAT vs. Redesigned SAT


Current SAT

Redesigned SAT

Total Testing Time*


*Redesigned SAT testing time subject to research

3 hours and 45 minutes

3 hours (plus 50 minutes for the Essay [optional])


  1. Critical Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Mathematics
  4. Essay
  1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
    • Reading Test
    • Writing and Language Test
  1. Math
  2. Essay (optional)

Important Features

  • Emphasis on general reasoning skills
  • Emphasis on vocabulary, often in limited contexts
  • Complex scoring (a point for a correct answer and a deduction for an incorrect answer; blank responses have no impact on scores)
  • Continued emphasis on reasoning alongside a clearer, stronger focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings most important for college and career readiness and success
  • Greater emphasis on the meaning of words in extended contexts and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact
  • Rights-only scoring (a point for a correct answer but no deduction for an incorrect answer; blank responses have no impact on scores)


  • Required and given at the beginning of the SAT
  • 25 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests writing skill; students take a position on a presented issue
  • Optional and given at the end of the SAT; postsecondary institutions determine whether they will require the Essay for admission
  • 50 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; students produce a written analysis of a provided source text

Score Reporting*


*Redesigned SAT scores subject to research

  • Scale ranging from 600 to 2400
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Critical Reading; 200 to 800 for Mathematics; 200 to 800 for Writing
  • Essay results scaled to multiple-choice Writing
  • Scale ranging from 400 to 1600
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing; 200 to 800 for Math; 2 to 8 on each of three traits for Essay
  • Essay results reported separately

Subscore Reporting


Subscores for every test, providing added insight for students, parents, admission officers, educators, and counselors

Test Length and Timing

Comparison of Test Length and Timing: Current SAT vs. Redesigned SAT

Current SAT

Redesigned SAT


Time Allotted


Number of





Allotted (minutes)

Number of 



Critical Reading









Writing and Language




















(230 with Essay)

(154 with Essay)

The Old SAT: Still Relevant Information


What is the SAT?

The SAT is the most widely used exam for college admissions. Using a standardized format, it aims to measure and assess a student’s academic readiness for college. In combination with strong grades it is a critical component in the college admissions process.

How does Central Park Tutors prepare students for the SAT?

Having aced the SAT themselves, our SAT tutors know that mastery of the content, timing, and test-taking skills are what lead to success on exam day. Using official College Board questions, our tutors take students systematically through the material moving from the easiest to the most difficult questions as the student is prepared. To learn timing and develop test-taking stamina, students must take practice tests on their own. Students then review their work with their tutors.

How long does it take to study for the SAT?

Everyone wants to know but without knowing a student’s strength/weaknesses and goals, it’s impossible to answer this question. If you failed algebra and want to go to Harvard, you will have a very different schedule than someone who aced AP calculus and wants to attend their local state university. After a student has taken an SAT practice test and discussed their goals with us, we would be happy to develop a realistic timetable for studying for the SAT. Remember the SAT is not an easy test and we are tutors, not miracle workers. Hoping to increase your score by a couple of hundred points in a couple of weeks is usually not realistic. Beware of people who promise you otherwise.

When do most students take the SAT?

Most commonly, students take the SAT in the spring of junior year and fall of senior year. Be sure to check on college application deadlines when planning to take the SAT. If a student wishes to apply Early Decision or Early Action to any college, the SAT Tests should be taken by October or November of senior year. For regular decision applications, some colleges will accept SAT Test scores through the January testing dates, depending on their application deadlines.

What is on the SAT?

There are 3 sections on the SAT:

  • The critical reading section which includes reading passages and completion of sentences
  • The writing, or essay section which includes multiple choice questions and a short essay portion
  • The mathematics section which includes algebra, geometry, probability and statistics, and arithmetic

How many times can the SAT be taken?

It can be taken as many times as you like, when offered. Many students take it 2 or 3 times.

How is the SAT scored?

Uggh.. thank goodness this is being revamped as of 2016.  As of now, the convoluted scoring is as follows:

The SAT is scored in several phases:

1. A raw SAT score is derived from the following: 

  • Correct Answers: +1 point for questions you get correct
  • Incorrect Answers: -1/4 point subtracted for incorrect multiple-choice, 0 points subtracted for incorrect student-produced response (math section)
  • Omitted Answers: 0 points subtracted for questions you don't answer

2. The raw score is then equated, meaning statistical analysis is used to adjust scores to compensate for slight differences in difficulty between test editions.

3. The essay is scored: Each essay is independently scored by two readers. Essays are scored on a scale from 1 to 6. The readers' scores are combined to produce the score. They score for:

  • language, vocabulary and usage skills
  • skillful and accurate sentence structure
  • clear communication of ideas, coherent focus
  • insight demonstrating ability to think critically and to substantiate ideas with supportive evidence
  • absence of errors in spelling, grammar, usage, vocabulary and mechanics

Final score: The raw score is then converted to a scaled score

What has changed about the SAT since many of us as parents first took the exam?

Since many parents took the exam, it has changed in significant ways:

  • it now includes a 25 minute writing section, distinct from the verbal section, which requires students to write an essay in five-paragraph form
  • in the 1990's the math section changed and is now not limited to multiple-choice format. Students must provide answers for some of the questions and are permitted to use a calculator
  • the analogy section has been eliminated
  • the SAT can be taken many times in an effort to achieve an increased score- the College Board now allows students to only send their best SAT scores to the schools to which they apply, instead of sending all the scores from every time they may have taken the SAT
  • takers can score up to 2400 points on the overall test, with a total of 800 potential points per section. This replaced the old 1600 point scale which was used until 2005, and which contained only 2 sections, verbal and mathematical

When will the SAT be held during the 2014-2015 academic year?

The SAT is held seven times a year.  Here are the upcoming SAT dates and registrations deadlines. For most students, we strongly encourage taking the test as many times as possible.


October 11 (September 12th registration deadline)

November 8 (October 9th registration deadline)

December 6 (November 6th registration deadline)


January 24 (December 29th registration deadline)

March 14 (February 13th registration deadline)

May 2nd (April 6th registration deadline)

June 6th (May 8th registration deadline)

Further Resources:


The College Board has many resources on their webstie:

College Confidential is a treasure trove for all things related to college. For example, there over 40,000 threads on the SAT alone.

Practice Tests

Below we have listed where to find official College Board practices tests. Central Park Tutors does not recommend practicing SAT questions with unofficial exams as they are often very different than the College Board’s.  The resources below will provide twenty-two official practice exams.

  • The Blue Book: If you are studying for the SAT, the blue book will be your bible. It includes ten official SAT exams.

  • The College Board Online Prep Course: The College Board offers an online prep course that includes eighteen lessons and ten additional SAT exams. As a preparation program, the course is very limited but the $70 expense is well worth it for the additional official exams.

  • College Board Website: Official practice tests can be found for free at:

SAT Online Practice Tests Can Be Found Here through the College Board:

Further Reading:

  • A more detailed explanation of the new SAT, “Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT,” published by the College Board, can be found at:

  • An FAQ can be found at:
  • The New York Times published a feature on the events and decisions leading to the redesign of the SAT. See

Balf, Todd. "The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul." The New York Times, March 6, 2014: < the-story-behind-the-sat-overhaul.html>

  • To read about Professor Les Perelman’s criticisms of the writing section, see

Have you or your kids struggled with this? If so, we'd love to hear about it and strategies you took to overcome it in the comments below!

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