Sneak Peek: New SAT Arrives March 2016

Everything you need to know about the revamped SAT and what it means for your teen.

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The new test will have four parts: reading, writing and language, math and an optional essay. According to the College Board, all will focus on more practical real-world information. Here’s a preview of what else you can expect from the revamped SAT.

Points Matter

One of the biggest changes: Students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers. Each question will have just four possible answers instead of five, making it easier to choose the right one. The test will return to a 1,600-point scale after being on a 2,400-point scale since 2005. The new scoring system will provide a better look at test takers’ knowledge and skills by including more specific scores for each section and subsection.

No More Flashcards

When was the last time you used the word "lachrymose" in a sentence instead of tearful? Obscure SAT words are becoming a thing of the past. Questions will now ask about the meaning and context of words that students might actually use not just in college but in their everyday lives. 

More Analysis and Practical Learning

Each section emphasizes interpretation and synthesis, and includes questions that require students to use evidence presented in tables, charts and graphs. Although there are no separate history, science and social studies sections, the SAT will touch on these topics throughout. Questions in the math section will test knowledge of ratios, percentages, proportions, linear equations and systems, and complex equations. In an effort to be more open and transparent, the College Board has released a number of sample questions online. It's also offering free practice materials in partnership with Khan Academy

Optional Essay

At the end of the three-hour test, students can opt to stay an extra 50 minutes to write an essay. Instead of answering a broad question, test takers will read a text and write about how the author built his or her argument. “It will promote the practice of reading a wide variety of arguments and analyzing how authors do their work as writers,” according to the College Board website. Only some colleges require the essay for admission, so check before deciding whether to have your teen sign up for this part of the test. Taking the essay portion costs an additional $11.50, bringing the total cost to $54.50.

Even though the new test doesn’t officially debut until March 2016, students can register now. The Princeton Review suggests that those in the class of 2017 take the current SAT, rather than wait to take the new version. (It recommends taking the ACT as well to be fully prepared for college appication season.) The College Board will hold the first round of scores until mid-May so it can determine a bell curve. A revised PSAT debuts this October.