The New SAT

The College Board Announces Changes to the SAT® Exam


Many parents and students have been asking us about the recent changes announced to the SAT Exam. Recently, the College Board—the company that writes, publishes, and administers the exam—stated that the SAT will change in 2016. The president of the College Board, David Coleman, announced that among these changes, the new SAT will go back to the old 1600 scale, the essay will be optional (and more evidence based à la document-based questions on current AP exams), obscure vocabulary words would be expunged, and the math section would have a narrower focus. Students will also cease to be penalized for incorrect answers as they are on the current SAT Exam.

When the SAT Exam first changed in 2006 from 1600 to 2400, many parents and students were frustrated and confused with the process. When the new SAT debuts in 2016, parents and students will have many questions, but suffice it to say that your chances for college admission success will remain largely unchanged.

Let’s explore some of the most frequently asked questions below.


How does this affect me today?


The classes of 2014 and 2015 will not be affected by the new SAT and should continue their collegiate preparation plan as normal. This means studying for the current SAT and researching colleges and universities as you normally would have before the new SAT changes were announced.

Students who are in the class of 2016 will be affected only if they plan on taking the SAT in spring 2016 (i.e., just before your high school graduation, which we don’t recommend). Since this is much later than recommended, most students of the class of 2016 will be taking the current SAT as well.

For the class of 2017, the best recommendation is to take the current SAT and the new SAT when it changes in 2016 so that you can see which test yields a higher score. This means that you should take the current SAT in fall of 2015 and the new version in spring of 2016 when it changes (and, of course, assuming that the College Board does not delay the release).

For the class of 2018 and later, you will be taking the new SAT Exam. The good news is that you have plenty of time to prepare for this exam and students should focus on doing well in school and strengthening their math, critical reading, and writing skills.


How will the new SAT change?

Changes to the Structure and Grading

  • The redesigned SAT will be graded on a scale of 400-1600 (current SAT is graded on a scale of 600-2400).
  • The penalty for selecting incorrect answers will be eliminated.
  • There will be two mandatory sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.
  • The Essay (50 min) will be optional and scored separately.

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

  • The more arcane vocabulary words will be replaced with words that students will use in high school, college, and beyond.
  • The section will test students’ ability to interpret and use evidence found in a range of sources; these sources can include graphs/charts, passages from literature, or texts from a wide range of sources, etc.
  • Students will have to support their answers from the text itself.
  • Students will have to analyze writing for a variety of items: grammar, substance, flow, etc.

Math Section

  • The math section will have a narrower focus
  • Problem solving and data analysis; this portion will test the students’ quantitative literacy including, but not limited to: ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning.
  • Algebra; this portion will focus on linear equations and systems.
  • Advanced math; this portion will deal with manipulating more complex equations.

Essay Section

  • The essay section will require students to read and critique an author’s argument.
  • Students will have to support their claim(s) with evidence from the writing.
  • The essay prompt for the essay will remain the same; only the passage will change.
  • The essay section will also be optional.

Compare the Exams Side by Side



How will Cornerstone Academic address these changes?


At Cornerstone Academic, we have long-anticipated these changes and have already begun to incorporate the new requirements into our current curriculum; the new requirements will debut in fall 2014 classes.

The SAT has changed many times since its founding, and it will continue to change in the future.

The Cornerstone Academic program is focused on our tripod strategy of knowledge, confidence, and strategy, which applies to any standardized examination that a student decides to take. Our curriculum has never touted itself as a means to learn “tricks and gimmicks” and has always focused on learning the content, doing plenty of practice problems, and building the confidence to do well on Test Day. Therefore, our program and instruction will change to reflect the new contents of the SAT, but the foundation of our students’ score increases, which stems from our tripod approach, will not change.


Why is The College Board changing the SAT® Exam?

While we cannot and are not speaking for the College Board, parents and students should understand that the arena of college entrance exams is dominated by two exams: the SAT and ACT. Both of these organizations are vying for students to use their exam as they prepare for college. In the last few years, as we have mentioned during our Score Night Sessions, the number of students who take the ACT has surpassed the number of students who take the SAT, which may have prompted the College Board to make the announced changes so that it can take back some of its market share.

What is the free test preparation being offered by The College Board?

As part of its changes, the College Board announced that it would provide free test preparation for the new SAT. Free test preparation has always existed (even today) and is always a good thing. In our Score Night Sessions, we always tell parents and students that given enough dedication and diligence, students can improve their scores without taking a standardized test preparation course, and this advice has not changed.

It is important to remember, however, that not all students can learn by watching a video. It is certainly better than no preparation at all, but it is no comparison to a live, knowledgeable instructor who has excelled on the exam you are preparing to take.

Further Reading and Research


More information about the new SAT will be revealed in the coming weeks and months and we will keep parents and students updated on this page.

For further reading on the new SAT Exam, we recommend the following articles:

If you have any questions, please contact us at any time. Thank you for choosing Cornerstone Academic!