SAT Test

Overview of the SAT

In March of 2016, the SAT underwent its biggest change in 30 years.  Our awesome research team closely monitored the changes to make sure counselors, parents, and students got the inside scoop.  Here’s a brief overview of the test.

The SAT:  In-depth Details


 2 sections
   • Math
   • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing


Total score (400–1600)

  • 2 section scores (200–800)

  • 3 test scores (10–40)

  • 7 sub-scores (1–15)

  • 2 cross-test scores


 3 hours (without essay) 
 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)


 4 answer choices per question


 No penalty for incorrect answers


 Paper and pencil and a computer-based option


  • Two tests:

    • Reading Test

    • Writing and Language Test

  • No more sentence completions; focus on words with multiple meanings

  • 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 with punctuation


Focuses on:

  • Application-based, multi-step questions

  • Higher-level math, including trigonometry

  • One set of “extended-thinking” grid-in questions (worth 4 points)

  • Core math competencies (translating math into English and English into math)

  • A deep understanding of mathematical principles, such as building equation


  • Calculators are only allowed in the longer of the two math sections


  • The essay is optional (50 minutes, timed) 

  • Students will be provided a substantial passage (600–700 words)  and will be asked to analyze how the author built his argument

  • Students will need to understand the techniques, authors use to write persuasively

About the SAT

With over 1.8 million test-takers per year, the SAT is the most well-known

The content on the 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. Your ability to process information quickly will be the key.

Changes You'll Love

Changes You Won't Love

• No penalty for wrong answers, so you don’t have to worry about losing points for wrong answers (Just    like on the ACT)
• Only 4 answer choices instead of 5 (Just like on the ACT)

• More familiar vocabulary, but you’ll need to know multiple definitions of those words

• Sayonara sentence completions!

• Questions require multiple steps to get an answer
• Reading passages include complex structure and vocabulary
• Foundational math skills are more important
• Reasoning and critical thinking skills are paramount
• You’ll have fewer but longer sections


Are My Scores Here Yet?

If you take the New SAT in March 2016, The College Board will hold scores from the test until after the May 2016 administration. That's a long and likely stressful waiting period for students to get their scores.

How Should I Prep for the SAT?

The SAT is still a timed pencil and paper test. Speed and accuracy count. Our Research and Development team are SAT experts. They have created world class content for our new courses and online resources to help students navigate these changes and be prepared on test day.

For more details on the changes coming in March, click Current/SAT Comparison.

Want advice from our test prep and college entrance experts? Click What Now? to get the most up to date information.

Colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. So which should you take?
It's all about the numbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT- others do better on the ACT. The Princeton Review ME offers a free assessment to help you determine which test is best for you. 


Since the March 2016 redesign of the SAT, there are fewer differences between the SAT and ACT.  The 3 main differences are here:  


ACT questions tend to be more straightforward.
ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you're being asked before you can start solving the problem. 


The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not.

You don't need to know anything about amoebas or chemical reactions for the ACT Science section. It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills, based upon a given set of facts. But if science isn't your thing, the SAT might be a better fit.


The ACT requires you to work faster, while the SAT gives you more time.

Take a look at this graph below, which analyzes how much time you are given (on average) to answer a question on both tests:





Minutes Per Question


80 minutes

58 questions

1 minute

22 seconds


65 minutes

52 questions

1 minute

15 seconds

Writing and Language *

35 minutes

44 questions

47 seconds






Minutes Per Question


60 minutes

60 questions

1 minute


35 minutes

40 questions

52.5 seconds

English *

45 minutes

75 questions

36 seconds


35 minutes

40 questions

52.5 seconds


* SAT Writing and Language is similar to the ACT English


 You can see that the ACT expects you to answer almost everything in less than a minute, while the SAT always gives you more time.


College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they're most concerned with your composite score. So if you're weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score.

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