The SAT is undergoing its biggest change in 30 years. The College Board says it is trying to make the test more relevant to high school curriculum. The Redesigned SAT is expected to debut in March of 2016 and will impact students who are in the class of 2017 or younger.

The content on the Redesigned SAT will be very similar to that which is on the ACT.  The major difference is in how the concepts are tested and the steps students will have to take to solve problems correctly. Students will have to reason their way through this exam by tackling problems in a linear and sequential fashion; a student’s ability to process information quickly will be key.

Some students may find the Redesigned SAT more friendly:

  • There will not be a penalty for wrong answers, so students won’t have to worry about losing points for guessing incorrectly.
  • There will be only 4 answer choices instead of 5.
  • Students may be more familiar with some of the vocabulary tested, but they will need to know multiple definitions of those words.

Some students may find some of the changes more challenging:

  • Questions will require multiple steps to get to an answer.
  • The reading passages will include complex structure and vocabulary.
  • Foundational math skills will be more important.
  • Reasoning and critical thinking skills will be paramount
  • There will be fewer sections on the Redesigned Test, but they will be longer in time than the current SAT

This remains a very coachable test for which students need to prepare.

ChangesThe Current SATThe Redesigned SAT (coming spring 2016)
SECTIONS 3 sections
  • Math
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing Skills
2 sections
  • Math
  • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
SCORING Composite score (600–2400)
  • 3 section scores (200–800)
Composite score (400–1600)
  • 2 section scores (200–800)
  • 3 test scores (10–40)
  • 7 sub-scores (1–15)
  • 2 cross-test scores
LENGTH OF TEST (WITHOUT BREAKS) 3 hours, 45 minutes 3 hours (without essay)
3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)
ANSWER CHOICES 5 answer choices per question 4 answer choices per question
INCORRECT ANSWER PENALTY 1/4 point off for each incorrect answer on multiple-choice questions No penalty for incorrect answers
FORMAT OF TEST Paper and pencil only Paper and pencil AND a computer-based option
  • Two sections:
    • Critical Reading
    • Writing Skills
  • Vocabulary tested by sentence completion questions; famous for "SAT Words," often considered obscure
  • Passage-based questions, with passages drawn from random topics
  • Two tests:
    • Reading Test
    • Writing and Language Test
  • No more sentence completions; focus on multiple-meaning words
  • Passages will draw from significant historical or scientific documents – may include informational graphics, such as charts
  • The reading passages will include complex structure and vocabulary
  • Passage-based grammar – including punctuation
MATH Covers:
  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Some Algebra II
Focuses on:
  • Application-based, multi-step questions
  • Higher-level math, including trigonometry
  • One “extended-thinking” grid-in question (worth 4 points);
  • Core math competencies (translating math into English and English into math)
  • A deep understanding of the theories behind mathematical principles, such as building equations
CALCULATORS Calculators permitted in every math section Calculators only allowed in the longer of the two math sections
THE ESSAY Required first section of the test (25 minutes, timed)
Students respond to a short prompt by providing personal opinion with supporting evidence
The essay is optional (50 minutes, timed)
Students will be provided a substantial passage (600–700 words) and will then be asked to analyze how the author built their argument; students will need to understand the techniques authors used to write persuasively
While the overall time per question is about the same, certain sections of the test will require a speedier pace.

The Current SAT

The Redesigned SAT

Time Alloted (minutes)Number of QuestionsTime Alloted (minutes)Number of Questions
Critical Reading 70 67 Reading 65 52
Writing 60 49 Writing and Language 35 44
Mathematics 70 54 Math 80 57
TOTAL 200 170 TOTAL 180 153
Essay 25 1 Essay (optional) 50 1

If you are currently in the class of 2017, you will have the chance to take BOTH the current test and the Redesigned SAT.

Getting the score you want on this high-stakes test starts by creating a plan for preparation. No matter what your areas of academic strength or weakness, or your confidence as a test taker, focused practice and dedicated effort to understanding where you need to improve will be key to cracking the test.

The Princeton Review will continue to be your go-to resource for everything you need to do well on college entrance exams and continue to help you navigate the college admissions and financial aid process.

We will be offering a new 2-hour assessment called  ACT-SAT StartUp . This free test will combine question types from the ACT and the redesigned SAT and is intended for students graduating in the Class of 2017 and beyond.


  • You will get exposure to both the ACT and the redesigned SAT in a single testing experience.
  • You will receive a score report showing the overall percentage of correct responses and a total number of correct, incorrect and blank responses in each question category of the ACT and the redesigned SAT.
  • You will receive explanations for every question on the StartUp.

Click  here  to find an event near you.

Check back here for ongoing updates on these changes and how they will affect you.

Watch the videos below to learn about the SAT changes from our Princeton Review experts.

What You Need To Know
Janice Weintraub, National Product Manager, SAT and ACT, and Robert Franek, Senior Vice President of Publishing, share their thoughts on the changes and what they mean for you.
Discussing the Redesign
Robert Franek, Senior Vice President of Publishing, discusses the Redesigned SAT on CBS This Morning.
The College Board reveals new SAT questions
Jonathan Chiu, National Content Director, High School Products, walks through sample problems from the Redesigned SAT.
Redesigned SAT: Linear Equations
Jonathan Chiu, National Content Director, High School Products, walks through a linear equation problem from the Redesigned SAT.

More Videos:

Testing Timeline Options for the Class of 2017

Because the PSAT is changing before the SAT, Class of 2017 students have some strategic choices to make about their admissions testing.

ACT Test Takers.  

Ideally, you will determine whether the SAT or ACT is a better fit during your sophomore year. If you know you are taking the ACT, you can tune out discussions about the SAT. You can take a practice test in each with us to help you decide.

In addition, while you may be required by your school to take the PSAT in October 2015, there is no reason to worry about it. True, if you do exceptionally well on the PSAT, you may receive National Merit Scholarship recognition, but if ACT is the better test for you, you probably have already rejected the idea of trying to score in the 99 th  percentile on the PSAT.

Current SAT Test Takers.  

You will have the ability to take the current SAT in the fall and January of junior year. This means starting SAT preparation early, perhaps the summer between 10 th  and 11 th  grades. Focusing on the current SAT has the benefit of both familiarity and earlier completion of a major testing requirement. Of course, taking the current SAT doesn’t prevent you from taking the redesigned SAT. In fact, if you take both, you can rely on whichever score is better, but you will need to prep for both tests.

If you do plan to take the current SAT and your school offers the PSAT in 10 th  grade, you will have an opportunity for exposure to the current SAT. After all, the current PSAT is a shorter version of the current SAT. If you cannot take the PSAT in 10 th  grade, no worries. You can still prepare for the SAT before and during junior year.

Your 11 th  grade PSAT, however, will not reflect the current SAT, as the redesigned PSAT will be in administered for the first time in October 2015. It is important to bear this in mind, especially if you are deep in prep for a fall 2015 current SAT. As is the case for ACT takers, you shouldn’t stress about the new PSAT. Of course, if you might receive National Merit Scholarship recognition on the new PSAT, definitely prepare for it!

Redesigned SAT Test Takers.  

If there is no chance that you will take the SAT before March 2016, then all of your prep should focus on the redesigned SAT. In this case, there is no benefit to taking the PSAT in 10 th  grade. You cannot receive National Merit Scholarship recognition for the PSAT in 10 th  grade, and that test will not resemble the SAT you eventually will take.

On the other hand, the PSAT in 11 th  grade will provide an opportunity for exposure to the redesigned SAT, as the new PSAT is expected to closely resemble the redesigned SAT. Also, if the redesigned SAT is a particularly good fit for you, you might be able to receive National Merit Scholarship recognition from the 11 th  grade PSAT. In that case, you should prepare for the PSAT. That preparation will then carry over once you begin to prepare for the SAT.

Both SAT Test Takers.  

One play is to hedge your bets by taking the current SAT by January 2016 and the redesigned SAT in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year. In this case, your 11 th  grade PSAT strategy is a bit more complicated. On the one hand, it would be nice to prepare for the PSAT. However, preparing for the new PSAT and the current SAT at the same time might involve sensory overload. In that case, focus on the current SAT first without worrying about the PSAT—unless National Merit Scholarship recognition is a meaningful probability. Once you are done with the current SAT, refocus your prep for the redesigned SAT.

Whatever you decide, remember that your PSAT scores do not go to colleges. Rather, for all but a very few, the PSAT is nothing more than a practice test. Only those who hope to score high enough for National Merit Scholarship recognition should have any concerns with respect to the PSAT!

Here are all of the testing dates available in junior year for Class of 2017 students:

September 2015
October 2015
December 2015
February 2016
April 2016
June 2016
Current SAT
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
January 2016
Redesigned SAT
March 2016
May 2016
June 2016
Redesigned PSAT
October 2015

The Princeton Review has been helping students prepare to do their best on test day for more than thirty years. Got questions? We've got the answers. Check back here to learn more about what's coming…and what you can do to be ready.

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