Why is the SAT changing in 2016?

The College Board redesigned the SAT to better align the test with skills students will need for university success. Vocabulary requirements have been adjusted to better reflect words used in the university classroom. Additionally, the questions have been re-designed to better reflect the kind of critical thinking, analysis, and evidence-based reasoning students will need in order to succeed in university. Finally, the College Board redesigned the test in order to level the playing field so that low-income students with limited access to test preparation could better compete.

Why will the essay be optional in 2016?

The College Board believes that the multiple-choice section is a sufficient predictor of university success. Additionally, when the College Board surveyed admissions officers about the usefulness of the essay, many college admissions officers believed that the essay didn’t help them to differentiate among candidates. Though the essay will be optional in 2016, some highly-selective schools will likely require students to complete the SAT essay section and report their scores.

If I am a current junior or senior (not taking the test in 2016) how will the re-designed test affect me?

Students graduating in 2014 and 2015 will take the older version of the SAT (the current version). Students graduating in these years should continue to use resources and take courses that review the current version of the test.

I will be a senior in 2016 and plan to take the SAT in both 2015 and 2016. What can I expect?

Students who take the test in 2015 will take the current version of the test and students who take the test in 2016 will take the new 2016 version of the test. Starting in 2016, the current version of the SAT will be obsolete and therefore will no longer be available. Scores from 2015 will continue to be valid and evaluated by admissions officers, but students taking the test in 2016 will take the new version of the test. The College Board recommends that students who find themselves in this situation send colleges scores from the older version of the SAT and from the newer version so that college admissions officers can use the highest scores. Many schools already require students to send all scores. College admissions officers are aware of the challenges that this transition year presents.

How long will the new 2016 SAT be?

The new SAT will likely be 3 hours long. Students will also have the option to stay an extra 50 minutes and write the optional essay. The College Board may adjust these times in the future, pending research and recommendations.

What is the best way to prepare for the new 2016 SAT?

The new SAT is designed to test the learning and reasoning skills students develop over the course of an educational career. In many ways, preparation for the new 2016 SAT will be no different than preparation for the old SAT. Students should familiarize themselves with the new test format. Visit the following College Board website for more information and sample questions. Ivy Global also offers free preparation materials and information.

How will the test scoring change in 2016?

The mathematics and evidence-based reading and writing will each be scored on a scale from 200 – 800. When both of these sections are added together, a student’s maximum score will be 1600. The optional essay section will be scored separately and this score will not factor into the SAT scaled scoring. Students will no longer be penalized by a quarter of a point for every question answered incorrectly.

How will colleges compare old SAT scores to the scores earned on the new 2016 SAT?

The College Board will release a concordance to help admissions officers compare the scores of students who take the old test in 2015 and the new test in 2016.

What material will be on the new 2016 SAT test?

The new 2016 SAT will continue to test reading, writing, and mathematical ability, but with an increased focus on analysis and evidence-based reasoning. The reading and writing sections will be united into one section called “evidence-based reading and writing.” In the past, this section required students to learn and study obscure words in order to perform well on the test. Instead, students will read literature, literary non-fiction, science, history, social studies, humanities articles, and documents critical to the founding of the United States. These founding documents include: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches, and many others.

The test will evaluate students’ abilities to interpret and synthesize texts from a variety of sources, including informational graphics. Students will also be asked to justify their answers by selecting appropriate quotations from the source text. Additionally, students will be asked to improve texts holistically and with respect to meaning, factual accuracy, organization, and not just for grammatical correctness. The essay will be optional and will be scored separately from the rest of the test. Students who choose to complete the essay portion of the test will have 50 minutes to write an essay that evaluates an author’s evidence, persuasiveness, style, and argumentation.

The mathematics section will test data analysis, problem solving, algebra, and more advanced math including linear equations, complex equations, functions, ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning. Students will not be allowed to use calculators on some of the mathematics sections.



What is the SAT Reasoning Test?

The SAT Reasoning Test is what is commonly referred to as “the SAT.” The SAT is a standardized reasoning test that tests abilities in math, reading comprehension, and writing. The current version of the SAT test is made up of three sections, each scored out of 800 for a total score out of 2400. However, a redesigned version of the SAT will be released in 2016, with only two sections scored out of 800 for a total cumulative score of 1600. The SAT is required for entry to most US colleges and is administered by the College Board.

What is the College Board?

The College Board is the not-for-profit organization that administers, scores, and develops the SAT. The College Board releases practice SAT tests and official material to help students prepare for the test.

How long is the current version of the SAT?

Total testing time is 3 hours and 45 minutes. Three breaks are provided. The test is broken down into sections as follows: one 25-minute essay section, six 25-minute sections (writing, reading, and mathematics), two 20-minute sections (writing, reading, or mathematics), one 10-minute multiple-choice writing section. In 2016, the test will be redesigned.

Is there an “unscored” section on the SAT?

Yes. Every exam contains one extra 25-minute critical reading, writing, or mathematics multiple-choice section whose raw score will not factor into your scaled score. The SAT uses this section to test out new questions and to better compare versions of the exam for fairness to all test-takers.

How important is the SAT?

The SAT is an integral part of the admissions process. US colleges utilize the SAT score in combination with the student's GPA and school rank to determine the student's "academic index," an indicator of the student's academic success and potential.

In assessing students from less prominent high schools, admissions officers give the SAT extra weight.

Students who are concerned that their school average and rank might fail to accurately depict their academic potential should view the SAT as an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

What is the PSAT and how is it different from the SAT?

The PSAT is a preliminary SAT administered to sophomores and juniors. Juniors take the PSAT to qualify for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT contains questions similar to those on the SAT and is useful preparation for the SAT. College admissions officers do not consider PSAT scores when considering applicants.

What material is on the SAT test?

The SAT tests reading ability, writing ability, and mathematical ability. The test is designed to gauge a students’ reasoning and logical ability. The reading sections test a student’s ability to answer questions about several reading passages and ability to complete a sentence by selecting the appropriate vocabulary in context. The passages on the reading section are derived from a variety of sources including selections from works of fiction, non-fiction, science articles, history articles, and humanities articles. The writing sections require students to answer multiple-choice questions where they identify and correct grammatical errors. Students are also required to respond to one 25-minute essay where they are asked to support their position on an issue using appropriate reasoning, examples, grammar, and mechanics. The mathematics section includes multiple-choice word problems that test students’ knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. In 2016, the SAT will be redesigned.

Taking the SAT


How many times should I take the SAT?

The College Board places no limitations on the number of times a student can take the SAT. Most students take the exam two or three times to ensure their scores are representative of their abilities.

When can I take the SAT?

The SAT is administered seven times a year in January, March, May, June, October, November, and December. See SAT Dates.

Where can I register for SAT exams?

You can register for either the SAT reasoning test or the SAT Subject Tests on the College Board website. To register you will need to create an account with the College Board.

When is the best time to register for the SAT?

The deadline to register for most test dates is about a month before the test, but it is a good idea to register well ahead of the deadline to secure a testing center close to home before space runs out. You can also register after the deadline if there is space, but you will have to pay late fees.

How much does it cost to register and take the SAT? 

The test fee is $52.50. Students who come from low-income backgrounds can qualify for a fee waiver. Visit the College Board website for a listing of fees and information about fee waivers.

When is the best time to take the SAT?

Most students first take the SAT in the spring of grade 11 and then again in the fall of grade 12.

When is the last date I can take the SAT to send with my college applications?

Virtually all schools will accept scores from as late as the December of applicants’ senior years. After December, the last qualifying test date varies by school.

Do I need to be a certain age to take the SAT?

No. Certain youth achievement programs or summer academic programs require that 7th and 8th grade students take the SAT. Students who take the test when they are younger should take the test again in 11th or 12th grade so that university admissions officers have up-to-date information about current academic progress.

What happens if I make a major mistake while taking the SAT?

At any time while you are taking the test or right after the test at the testing center you can ask the test administrator to cancel your scores. The administrator will provide you with a form that you will need to fill out. If you leave the test center and choose to cancel your scores, you have until 11:59 p.m. ET on the Wednesday after your test was administered to cancel your scores. Your request to cancel the scores must be received in writing. Visit the College Board’s website to learn more and to print out score cancellation forms.

Should I guess on the SAT?

The SAT is designed so that random guessing will negatively affect your score. There is a quarter point deduction for wrong answers on multiple choice questions. However, it is often to your advantage to guess. If you can eliminate even one wrong answer, you can tip the odds in your favor and, on average, gain more points from strategized guessing than by leaving a question blank.

What I should remember on test day?

On test day, make sure to do the following things:

  • Eat breakfast! The SAT takes many hours to write.
  • Bring snacks for the breaks between sections, and keep a bottle of water with you, as this is the only thing you are allowed to drink during the test.
  • Bring the correct supplies: at least two number two pencils (no pens or mechanical pencils), a good eraser, and an approved calculator.
  • Wear multiple layers, so that you can put on or take off clothing to adjust to the temperature of the testing room.
  • Don’t forget to bring your picture ID and SAT admission ticket.

How to Prepare


When should I start to prepare for the SAT?

It’s never too early to start preparing. Students sometimes start preparing as early as 8th grade. Younger students can prepare by enhancing fundamental academic skills like reading comprehension and writing. In particular, one of the best ways to prepare is to read a large number of books at an early age. We also encourage self-study by purchasing a few SAT preparation books.

What is the best SAT test preparation book?

The College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide is the best resource for studying for the SAT. The book is written by the test makers themselves and includes official practice tests.

Where can I find free test preparation materials?

You can visit the College Board website for free practice tests. Ivy Global also provides free SAT practice here.

If I earn high grades in school, can I expect to earn a high score on the SAT?

While the SAT does test skills accumulated over the course of your educational career, high grades in school do not guarantee a high score on the SAT. Different schools use different grading methods. However, the SAT is a standardized test, meaning one grading method is used to compare all students across the country and world. Some students do not earn the score they expected because they were not familiar with the test format or the kinds of questions the SAT asks. Some high schools might not use a grading system that upholds students to the national standards the SAT scoring system requires.

What level of high school math should I complete before taking the SAT?

Students should complete at least high school algebra and geometry. It is also highly recommended that students complete Algebra II before taking the test. Generally, students should take the most rigorous mathematics courses available to them if they wish to score competitively on the SAT.

How many hours should a student expect to study in preparation for the SAT?

Study time for the SAT varies significantly from student to student. The first step should always be to complete a diagnostic exam in realistic test conditions. Based on the results from this test, the student should determine a reasonable study schedule to improve on his/her weaknesses. Typically, the majority of students will need to dedicate at least 60 hours to maximize performance on the SAT.

What is the best way to prepare for the SAT?

The SAT tests reading, writing, math, and reasoning skills accumulated over the course of an educational career. Reading challenging books, actively studying and building your vocabulary, writing on a daily basis, and taking challenging mathematics courses will help you naturally improve your score. Other ways you can improve your score include familiarizing yourself with the test format by taking practice tests. Because the SAT is a standardized test, the instructions, format, and question styles do not change from test to test. Knowing and understanding the format will save you time you otherwise would spend reading instructions and adjusting to the expectations of the test. Use the free practice tools and take the free practice tests provided on the College Board website. Take some time to study the College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide. Many students also choose to take SAT test preparation courses to help them navigate and study College Board’s resources. Others receive tutoring in order to improve their scores.

SAT Scores and College Requirements


How does the College Board score my SAT?

The reading, writing, and mathematics sections are scored on a scale from 200 – 800. When all three sections are added together, a student’s maximum possible score is 2400. The essay is scored from 2 to 12 and this score, along with the raw score on the multiple-choice section, is used to determine the writing scaled score. In order to calculate the scaled scores, the College Board will first determine a student’s raw score. The raw score is the number of questions a student answered correctly on each section minus a quarter of a point for every question a student attempted and answered incorrectly. Students neither earn nor lose points for questions left blank. Once the raw score is calculated, the College Board uses a statistical method called “equating” to determine the scaled score. This method addresses and normalizes scores to account for different levels of difficulty among different editions of the test. In 2016, the test scoring will change.

What is the highest possible SAT score?

Currently, the highest possible SAT Reasoning Test score is 2400, with 800 in each of the three sections. Beginning in 2016, there will be a redesigned SAT administered to students with a maximum score of 1600, with a maximum of 800 in each of the two sections. For each of the SAT Subject Tests, the highest possible score is 800.

How will colleges use and evaluate my SAT scores?

College admissions officers use a variety of factors to determine admission to a given program. Your transcripts, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, achievements both within and outside the classroom, personal essay, and SAT scores all play a role in the admissions decision. Different schools place different weight on each of the factors listed above. Some schools will look closely at the SAT, while others may not require students to take the test at all. Research the schools to which you want to apply and speak to admissions officers to get a better sense of how much weight admissions officers will place on your SAT scores.

Do I need to answer every question correctly in order to receive a perfect score?

Not necessarily. You will likely need to get every math question correct in order to earn a perfect math score. However, some versions of the SAT are more difficult than others. There are many versions of the SAT where students can miss a few Critical Reading or math questions and still earn a perfect 800 on each of these sections.

If some versions of the test are more difficult than others, is there a time I can take the test so that I can take an easier version?

All versions of the test are correlated using rigorous statistical methods. The test is designed so that you’ll earn the same scaled score regardless of whether you find yourself sitting an easier or more difficult version of the test. Students should take the test when they feel prepared and rest assured that the statistical methods the College Board uses will provide a fair assessment of their abilities.

How will I receive my SAT scores?

Your scores will be sent to you and your high school about five weeks after you take the test. You can also view your scores by logging into your College Board account at the College Board website.

What scores do I need to be a competitive applicant for top US colleges?

School Type Examples Estimated SAT Score Needed
Most Selective Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT 2250-2400
Very Selective UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Duke 2150-2300
Selective Emory, Chicago, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Rice 2050-2250
Most Selective NYU, Boston University, USC, Michigan 2050-2250

What is the median, or average SAT score?

For the Class of 2013, the average or median score was 1497. The median score for critical reading was 497. The median score for writing was 487. And the median score for mathematics was 513.

Can I send colleges only my highest SAT scores?

Yes. In March of 2009 the College Board adopted a new policy that gives students the ability to choose which test results are sent to prospective schools. However, a number of schools including Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale have responded to this new policy by requesting that applicants send the results of every SAT test they have taken.

Note that even with this new policy, it is not possible to “divide up” the scores from a single SAT; all sections of the SAT from a single test date must be sent together.

However, most schools have a policy of only considering your highest scores. Some schools will take your best overall score from a single administration, while other will mix and match your best scores for each section from your entire test history. Even though schools look at only highest scores, it does not send a positive signal to admissions offices when applicants take the exam too many times.

What does “Score Choice” mean?

Score choice is the policy that allows you to choose the test results you will send out to schools. The College Board does not charge for this service. Be aware that schools have different policies about whether they will accept Score Choice.

Is it possible to combine different SAT section scores from different tests?

No. Although the College Board now (as of March 2009) allows students to choose which scores will be sent to their prospective colleges, all three SAT sections from one test date must be sent together.

However, the majority of schools explicitly assert that in assessing the student's performance on the SAT, they focus on the student's best score for each section.



How does the ACT differ from the SAT?

The following chart outlines some of the most significant differences between the two tests. 

Testing Time
  • 3 hours, 25 minutes (including the 30-minute Writing Test)
  • 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • English (grammar), Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (essay)
  • Reading, Math, and Writing (grammar and essay)
Question Format
  • Multiple choice (except for the essay)
  • Multiple choice (except for the essay and 10 math grid-in questions)
Time Structure
  • English Test: 45 minutes
  • Math Test: 60 minutes
  • Reading Test: 35 minutes
  • Science Test: 35 minutes
  • Writing Test (optional): 30 minutes
  • Seven 25-minute sections (two each of Reading, Math, and Writing, with one experimental section)
  • Two 20-minute sections (one Reading, one Math)
  • One 10-minute Writing section
  • 4 passages with 10 questions per passage
  • Sentence completion
    Short and long passages
  • More emphasis on vocabulary
  • Arithmetic
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Arithmetic
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Data representation
  • Research summaries
  • Conflicting viewpoints
  • N/A
ACT English Test vs. SAT Writing (Multiple Choice)
  • Multiple choice questions based on improving essays
  • Multiple choice questions based on improving sentences, identifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs
ACT Writing Test vs. SAT Writing (Essay)
  • 30 minutes
    Score scale: 0-12
  • Does not affect the composite score
  • Topic related to high school students
  • Always last section of the exam
  • 25 minutes
    Score scale: 0-12
  • Factored into the Writing score
  • More abstract topic
  • Always first section of the exam
  • Composite score of 1-36, based on the average of the 4 test scores
  • Each of the 4 tests (English, Math, Reading, Science) is given a score from 1-36
  • Score of 0-12 for the optional Writing Test
  • Total score of 600-2400, based on the sum of the 3 subject scores
  • Each subject (Reading, Writing, Math) score range is 200-800
  • Score of 0-12 for the Essay
Wrong Answer Penalty
  • N/A
  • 1/4 point deducted for each incorrect response
Score Reporting
  • You decide whether or not to send your test score.
  • You decide whether or not to send your test score.

If you’re unsure about which test is a better fit for you, give both tests a try.

Subject Tests


What are the SAT Subject Tests?

Subject Tests are commonly required or highly suggested by some of the more selective U.S. colleges, such as the Ivy League schools. Each subject test is one hour in length and tests common high school subjects like Chemistry, French, and Math. There are many options for SAT Subject Tests, giving students another opportunity to show college admissions boards their affinity and ability for specific subjects. Colleges may use SAT Subject Tests in the admissions process and to aid students in course selection and placement. The schools that require or recommend applicants take Subject Tests usually ask applicants to take two Subject Tests, but applicants are often allowed to choose the tests they take. The Subject Tests are entirely multiple choice.

A full list of the 20 SAT Subject Tests is provided below:

  • Literature
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Math Level 1
  • Math Level 2
  • Biology/EM
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • French
  • French with Listening
  • German
  • German with Listening
  • Spanish
  • Spanish with Listening
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Chinese with Listening
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening

Which SAT Subject Test should I take?

Requirements vary. Check with each university and program to which you are applying to determine guidelines for admission. Most students who are applying to selective and highly-selective universities choose to take 3 Subject Tests in areas where they can best demonstrate their academic strengths. Students often will take Subject Tests in areas related to their intended field or major. Consult with admissions officers and speak to your teachers and counselors to best determine which Subject Tests you should take.

Where are the SAT Subject Tests administered?

SAT Subject Tests are administered at the same locations as the SAT Reasoning Test.

When should I take the SAT Subject Tests?

Generally, students take the SAT Subject Test shortly after they have completed the class or classes recommended by the College Board. Visit the College Board website to learn more about the classes the College Board recommends for each test. Students will want to check each school’s admissions requirements to make sure scores are sent by application deadlines. The College Board does not offer some tests during every testing administration, so it is important that students check the Website to determine when their desired test is offered.

Do the SAT Subject Tests cover the same material as AP tests?

No. AP tests college-level knowledge, whereas the SAT Subject Tests evaluate college readiness. That said, students who take AP or IB courses are typically better-prepared to excel on SAT Subject Tests, and many students see a great deal of overlap in the kinds of questions and material presented between both tests.

How can I prepare for the SAT Subject Tests?

Take the classes the College Board recommends at the highest level your school offers. Visit the College Board website to learn more about the classes the College Board recommends for each test. The College Board also provides free test preparation material on their Website. Some students choose to receive additional tutoring in order to better familiarize themselves with strategies and test format.

Do I have to answer every question correctly on the SAT Subject Tests in order to earn a perfect score?

No. The College Board recognizes that the material taught in a classroom in New York city might not be the same material taught in San Francisco. Furthermore, different teachers emphasize different material. A student does not need to answer every question on the test correctly in order to earn a perfect scaled score of 800.

Can I choose which SAT Subject Test scores to send out to schools?

Yes, but check with each school’s admissions policy. Some schools require you to send all your scores. Most schools will only look at your top scores.

What’s the difference between the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests? 

The SAT Reasoning Test takes just under four hours to write and measures general math, reading, and writing abilities. The SAT Subject Tests test common high school subjects, such as Biology, Math, Literature, or World History. The SAT is predominantly multiple choice, with a required writing sample, while the Subject Tests are entirely multiple choice. All students take the same SAT I exam on each test day, however there are twenty different SAT Subject Tests students can choose from.

  SAT Reasoning Test SAT Subject Tests
Test Time approx. 4 hours 1 hour per subject
Content General math, reading, and writing abilities Specific content related to one of twenty subject test options
Test Time approx. 4 hours 1 hour per subject  
Scoring Current SAT: Three sections, each scored out of 800, for a total cumulative score out of 2400 2016 SAT: Two sections, each scored out of 800, for a total cumulative score out of 1600 Each subject test is scored out of 800
Required or optional Required for admission to most universities or colleges Varies by school. Required or highly recommended by many highly selective US colleges.