Get ready for the redesigned 2016 SAT!

If you’re in the graduating class of 2017 or later, read on!

The College Board is launching a new SAT for the first time in 11 years. Why? Recent research shows that success in college today depends in part on strong critical thinking and analysis skills; the redesigned test will seek to better gauge student preparedness for the rigors of college coursework. The revised SAT will launch in March of 2016 and the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2015.

From now until Test Day, trust Kaplan’s experts to guide you through the changes you’ll find on the new test. We’ve seen more than a few SAT updates in our time, so we’ve got you covered!


2016 SAT test changes graphic

7 Key Changes to the SAT

Changes to the SAT are coming, and they’re not minor. The redesign affects the way the test is structured, administered, timed, and scored. An optional essay, fewer multiple choice questions, and no penalty for wrong answers are just some of the new features. You can also expect an increased emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving, and data analysis.

Read on for a breakdown of the seven key changes.


Current SAT
  • 1/4 penalty for wrong answers
  • Score is out of 2400
    • 800 for Math
    • 800 for Reading Comprehension
    • 800 for Writing
  • No wrong-answer penalty
  • Score is out of 1600
    • 800 for Math
    • 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Subscores and insight scores available
  • Optional Essay will be scored separately


Current SAT
  • 3 Critical Reading tests (20-25 minutes each)
  • 3 Math tests (10-25 minutes each)
  • 3 Writing tests (10-25 minutes each)
  • 1 Essay test (25 minutes)
  • 1 Experimental test
  • 5 answer choices for multiple-choice questions
  • 1 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test
    • 65-minute Reading section
    • 35-minute Language and Writing section
  • 1 Math test
    • 55-minute section with calculator
    • 25-minute section without calculator
  • 1 Essay test (optional) - 50 minutes
  • 4 answer choices for multiple choice questions


Current SAT
  • 3 hours 45 minutes
  • 3 hours; 3 hours 50 minutes with optional essay


Current SAT
  • Only available in print
  • Focused on broad range of content and skills
  • Available in print and digitally*
  • Fewer questions with a greater focus on in-depth analysis of content and evidence


Current SAT
  • Essay is required
  • Students have 25 minutes to draft a response
  • Quality of reasoning and accuracy of data not tested
  • Score combined with multiple-choice Writing section
  • Essay is optional
  • Students have 50 minutes to analyze a 650-750 word document and draft an essay
  • Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; requires students to analyze a source document and explain how the author builds an argument
  • Facts matter


Current SAT
  • Focus on wide array of topics
  • More emphasis on computational skills
  • Calculators permitted for all sections
  • Multiple choice and grid-in questions
  • Concentrated focus on:
    • Problem-solving and data analysis
    • "The Heart of Algebra"
    • "Passport to Advanced Math"
  • Real-world problem solving accompanied by informational graphics
  • Calculator permitted for 37 questions; not permitted for 20 questions
  • Multiple choice and grid-in questions;1 enhanced grid-in question

Reading and Writing

Current SAT
  • Critical Reading
    • Two parts:
      • Sentence Completions
      • Passage-based questions
    • Passage-based questions from short (100-150 words) and long (400-850 words) passages
  • Writing
    • Combined score of writing multiple-choice questions and Essay
  • Reading and Writing combined into "Evidence-Based Reading and Writing"
  • Reading
    • No Sentence Completions
    • Tests understanding of passages from U.S. and World Literature, History/Social Studies, and Sciences (500-750 words)
  • Writing and Language
    • Tests "Expression of Ideas" and "Standard English Conventions" through passages relating to Careers, History/Social Studies, Humanities, and Science
    • Questions pull from extended prose (400-450 words)

The New Scoring

The new SAT will return to the 1600-point scale, with the Math and Reading sections scored between 200 and 800, and the optional essay evaluated separately. The ¼-point penalty for wrong answers will be discontinued.

The new scoring model is also more complex than ever, providing enriched score reports to shed light on your individual strengths and areas that need improvement.

Check out the chart below for a breakdown.

Composite Score

Score Range: 400-1600
  • The sum of the two Area scores–Math score + Evidence-Based Reading & Writing score
  • The Essay score will be reported separately and is not a part of the Composite Score


Score Range: 1600
  • Details

Area Score

Score Range: 200-800
  • There are two Area scores – one for Math and one for Evidence-Based Reading & Writing
  • The Essay score is scored separately and not included in either Area score

Essay Score

Score Range: 6-24
  • The Essay will have three scores – Reading, Writing, and Analysis, each scored between 2 and 8.

Test Score

Score Range: 10-40
  • There are five Test scores – Math, Reading, Writing & Language, History/Social Studies, and Science
  • Two of the Test scores – History/Social Studies and Science – are “Cross-Test Scores”. These scores will reflect how students per- form on specific questions tied to these subjects as seen in both the Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing sections.


Score Range: 10-40
  • There are seven Subscores:
    ▪Two tied to Reading, Writing & Language • Two tied to Writing & Language only
    ▪Three tied to Math
  • The Reading, Writing & Language Subscores will reflect how students perform on specific questions tied to Command of Evidence and Relevant Words in Context concepts
  • The Writing & Language Subscores will reflect how students perform on specific questions tied to Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions concepts
  • The Math Subscores will reflect how students perform on specific questions tied to The Heart of Algebra, Passport to Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis concepts

How to Prepare

For graduates of 2017 or later who will end up taking the revised SAT, it’s not too early to get started! Get a feel for the new concepts with our free new SAT and PSAT quiz, and look into our free online info sessions to learn more. Use this page as a resource as more details become available.

If you’re graduating before 2017, no need to worry about the SAT revamp. Instead, find a practice test near you for the current exam or sign up for an online practice test or info session—it's all free!

Frequently Asked Questions

With a redesign of this nature, students and families are bound to have many questions. Read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. If you don't see your question, don't be shy - email us at!

How is the SAT changing?

The revision is comprehensive, and includes both administrative and content changes. Click here to review the differences between the current and redesigned SAT.

● Administrative Changes
o Scoring will return to a composite of 1600
o New scoring elements include Test scores, Subscores, and Cross-Test scores
o No wrong answer penalty
o Longer sections with fewer breaks
o Essay is optional and will be scored separately

● Content Changes
o Sections will be Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
o Math focused on fewer topics with a heavy emphasis on Algebra

Why is the College Board making these changes?

This isn’t the first time the SAT has changed – and it probably won’t be the last! As creators of the test, the College Board is always working to ensure that the SAT is effective and up-to-date. With the 2016 revision, the College Board’s stated goal is to better align the test with skills necessary for college and career readiness, and to better connect the test with high school curricula.

Will the 2016 exam be harder than the current SAT? Easier?

Every student is different, so it’s not possible to say that the 2016 SAT will be “easier” or “harder” across the board. It’s fair to expect that some students might find parts of the redesigned SAT a bit easier, while others may find new question types more challenging. In an effort to better align the SAT with the skills that matter most in college and in the workplace, the College Board has de-emphasized or eliminated some skills, but other topic areas require an even deeper level of understanding and efficiency. As always, the best way to decide what test is right for you is to try some practice questions or take a free practice test.

I’m in the class of 2017. Which test(s) should I plan to take?

Students may choose to submit scores from either exam. The College Board has committed to releasing a concordance sheet to help colleges, students, and parents convert scores on the current SAT to scores on the 2016 SAT. During previous test changes, we have seen a significant number of students choose to take both the old and new versions of the exams in order to maximize the potential to achieve their target score. When selecting a prep plan, you should choose one that best addresses your score goals, while providing adequate time to balance your schedule and studies.

I’ve heard the essay will now be optional. Should I still plan to take it?

Most colleges and universities are still deciding whether they will require the essay in 2016. We recommend you check with your target schools to see what they require or will review as part of their admissions decisions.

Is the ACT changing also?

No major changes to the structure or content of the ACT have been announced. However, the test maker has stated that minor changes to the Writing section and enhancements to score details will be introduced in fall of 2015. To learn more, click here.

How will Kaplan change their programs for the 2016 SAT?

At Kaplan, our 75-year history has included numerous test changes, and we understand the challenges that come with navigating one. The curriculum for all of our programs, including classes and tutoring, will be completely revised and aligned to the 2015 PSAT/NMSQT and the 2016 SAT. We have a team of hundreds already working to develop new practice tests and materials so that we’ll be ready when you need to start preparing for the updated tests.

Will Kaplan strategies still work on the 2016 SAT?

Yes! Kaplan has over 75 years of experience preparing students for not just the SAT, but also the ACT and dozens of other exams. High-quality preparation – focused on content knowledge, good critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and confidence – will always support better outcomes.

The bottom line is that students who are prepared for test day do better than those who walk into a test without any preparation. At Kaplan we continue to innovate and connect students with the right tools, personalized learning, expert teachers, and guaranteed results to help you achieve your educational goals.


Planning to take the PSAT in 2015? The new exam is fully aligned with its SAT counterpart and still qualifies you to compete for National Merit Scholarship Awards.

Find out what to expect on the PSAT/ NMSQT below.

*The SAT test date for March 2016 has not been released by The College Board as of October 1, 2014. The countdown date is an estimate only.