Your Guide to The New SAT: Timing, Content, Scoring, and Tips

College and career readiness–that’s what it’s all about now. The new SAT aims to measure those skills deemed “must-haves” to be successful in college. But what does this mean? And what are the biggest changes? To answer your questions, and more, we put together this guide for the new SAT. 

A compass sitting on a map of the world.

Timing on the New SAT

The total duration of the new SAT timing is 3 hours (add another 50 minutes if opting to take the essay test) compared to the 3 hours and 45 minutes required for the current version. This includes the reading (65 minutes), writing and language (35 minutes), and math (80 minutes) sections.

Section# of QuestionsTime (Minutes)
Writing & Language4435
Essay (Optional)150

New SAT Content

Gone are the days of the required essay section. And if you’ve heard that the esoteric, arcane, incomprehensible, and perplexing vocabulary section is history, you are correct.

*Pause for happy dance*

So what actually IS on the test? The three Rs of course: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

SAT Reading and Writing Guide

The first section of the test is now called the “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section”, and consists of two parts.

First, you have the reading test, which consists of 52 questions in 65 minutes. All questions are based on passages, charts, diagrams, or tables. There will always be a passage from a classic or contemporary piece of literature, and from a U.S. founding document (e.g., The U.S. Constitution).

You will also encounter two additional selections, one from the social sciences (i.e., economics, psychology, or sociology), and one from the hard sciences (i.e., Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics).  

The second part is the writing and language test, which is comprised of 44 questions in 35 minutes. These questions are also based on passages, which look very similar to those in the reading section. So what’s the difference? Well, it’s what the questions are asking. The test writers say that if you can edit a paper, you will be successful in this part of the test. You need to be able to read, find mistakes, and correct them. Sounds simple enough, right?

Math on the New SAT

For those opting not to take the essay portion of the SAT, the math test will be the last section. There are 58 questions for you to answer in the allotted 80 minutes, but this is where it gets interesting.

Most of the questions in the math section are multiple-choice, however, 22% of the responses are considered “grid-in answers”. This means that you have to actually bubble in the answer you solved for. So, there will not be a, b, c, and d answer options listed, rather you will write “2.5” in the boxes and bubble the “2”, “.”, and “5”, for example.  

There are also two parts to the math test. One you can use your calculator during, the other you cannot. The questions for these two parts consist of what SAT has dubbed the “Heart of Algebra” (linear equations and systems), “Problem Solving and Data Analysis”, which is a little more straightforward, and the “Passport to Advanced Math” (manipulation of complex equations).

The New SAT Essay

Last, but not least, is the SAT essay. As you have probably heard, this is no longer a required portion. You’ll have the choice to take the essay or skip it entirely. Opting to take the essay section will cost you another 50 minutes of additional test time, and a bit of cash.

This section consists of another passage to read. You will then be asked to breakdown said passage, and using evidence from the text, explain how the author has constructed their argument. Interestingly, the premise is nearly identical to one of the essays required on the GRE. So, if you think you might go on to graduate school someday, remember how you prepared for and performed on, this section.  

Scoring the New SAT

One of the most important things you need to know about the new SAT is that there are no longer point deductions for wrong answers. That means there is no penalty for guessing. FILL IN ALL OF THE BUBBLES! I cannot emphasize this enough.

For more information on scoring, see College Board’s website.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t go back after time has been called and fill in bubbles for another section–that’s still cheating.

Tips for Tackling the New SAT

College Board is pretty proud of the changes they’ve made on the new SAT. Students should be excited as well. It is going to be a more streamlined exam and focused on more real-world situations and the academic skills you need for real life.

The new SAT rolls out on the March 5 test date. Make sure, when you are studying, that you are using the correct test prep materials. You don’t want to accidentally study for the old version of the test! Visit College Board’s website, and stay tuned for our post describing 5 Online SAT test prep resources!

Check out how your SAT scores affect your acceptance odds with College Raptor!

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