2016 SAT: The Latest Research and Analysis

The 2016 SAT is content-based, with less emphasis on logic than the current SAT. Math problems are more likely to look like problems that could appear in a school math class and less like logic puzzles.
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This article was co-authored by Educational Director Alice Rothman-Hicks.

Though some uncertainty over the exact form and content of the 2016 SAT remains, the College Board surreptitiously released a full-length practice "2016 PSAT" several weeks ago, thus making the 2016 SAT picture much clearer. The following lists, broken down by section and based on granular analysis of this practice test and previously released College Board sample questions, aim to distill the major differences between the current and 2016 versions of the SAT.
A second article, coming soon, will detail the differences between the 2016 SAT and the ACT.

The Basics

  • The 2016 SAT will be three hours long without the (optional) essay and three hour and 50 minutes long with the essay; the current SAT is three hours and 45 minutes long and its essay is mandatory.

  • The 2016 SAT will consist of five sections with 155 questions (including the essay); the current SAT consists of 10 sections with 170 questions.
  • The 2016 SAT will be scored on a scale from 400-1600; the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing subsection (consisting of the Reading and Writing &Language tests) and the Math subsection will each be scored on a 200-800 scale and the scores will be added together. The current SAT is scored on a scale from 600-2400, with each of three subsections (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing) scored on a 200-800 scale.
  • The 2016 SAT will no longer have the "wrong answer penalty" that the current SAT has.
  • Reading

    • On the 2016 SAT there will no longer be fill-in-the-blank-style questions, i.e., sentence completions, to specifically test vocabulary, nor will there be short-form passages; long-form passages will be slightly longer than those on the current SAT.

  • Though esoteric vocabulary is not specifically tested on the 2016 SAT, the difficulty of its passages still favors students with strong vocabularies and close reading skills.
  • On the 2016 SAT some reading passages will feature data in the form of graphs or tables.
  • The 2016 SAT will feature "paired questions" in which the first question asks about an idea or concept in the passage and the second question asks which part of the passage best supports the previous answer.
  • Writing and Language

    • The 2016 SAT Writing & Language section will consist of four passages with 11 questions each. Sentences or parts of sentences will periodically be underlined and students will have to figure out how best to revise those underlined phrases. Questions may also relate to an entire paragraph or passage.

  • The 2016 SAT has greater emphasis on punctuation, diction, and style or "writer's strategy" based questions than does the current SAT.
  • Students may be asked first to interpret graphs or tables and then to revise sentences or paragraphs that relate to information found in the graphs or tables.
  • Math

    2016 SAT vs. Current SAT:

    • The 2016 SAT has one non-calculator section and one calculator section.

  • The 2016 SAT puts a greater emphasis on: fundamental math skills, i.e., fractions, decimals, percents, proportions, rates, relating algebraic expressions/equations to word problems; it features multi-step application problems, clusters of problems about a given situation, data interpretation, and usage of graphs and charts. Some problems require knowledge of basic precalculus and trigonometry. There is much less emphasis on geometry, functions, and various number and operations topics than there is on the current SAT.

  • The 2016 SAT is content-based, with less emphasis on logic than the current SAT. Math problems are more likely to look like problems that could appear in a school math class and less like logic puzzles.
  • Essay

    2016 SAT vs. Current SAT:

    • In the 2016 SAT the prompt will be published ahead of time and will remain the same with changes only for the excerpt. Students will have to read a document and write an essay analyzing the author's argument, use of rhetoric, etc.

  • Students will have 50 minutes to read the document and plan and write the essay.
  • The 2016 SAT essay will now be scored separately from the rest of the test, on a scale from 6-24.
  • The 2016 SAT essay will be the last section of the test instead of the first and will be optional.
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