The New SAT Test

A breakdown of the changes, and how parents view them
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A May 2015 Kaplan Test Prep survey found that 85 percent of parents of college-bound students are still unaware that the SAT is changing, even two years since the change was announced and just a few months before the new SAT launches in March 2016.*

When provided more details about the proposed changes to the SAT, the surveyed parents’ opinions about the new format were divided.

  • 30 percent say they viewed the changes as something negative or think the exam will be harder.
  • 30 percent view the changes as something positive.
  • 20 percent are indifferent.
  • 15 percent still don’t know enough to form an opinion.

However, views on specific changes reveal that a majority of parents believe the new SAT will be harder.



The current SAT math section focuses on computational skills and allows students to use a calculator during all sections. The new SAT will focus on advanced algebra, data analysis and real-world problem solving. Calculators will only be permitted for one of two math sections.

Fifty-six percent of parents say these changes will make the math portion of the new SAT harder, 18 percent say it will become easier and 26 percent say it will make no difference.



The current SAT reading section includes three 20-25 minute units of sentence completions, and long- and short-passage reading questions. The new SAT reading section will last 65 minutes and be made up of long passages followed by reading comprehension questions. It will also test understanding of passages from U.S. and world literature, history/social science and science. Fifty-three percent of parents say the redesigned SAT reading section will be harder than the current one, 12 percent say it will become easier and 36 percent say it will make no difference.


Writing and Language/Grammar

The current SAT tests grammar in the form of individual sentence correction. The new SAT will test grammar in the form of passages and will also include questions about structure and reading comprehension. Fifty-three percent of parents say the writing and language/grammar portion of the new SAT will become harder, 13 percent say it will become easier and 34 percent say it will make no difference.



The current SAT essay is required and asks students to develop a persuasive essay about an issue. Facts and grammar have little bearing on the overall score. The new SAT essay is optional and asks students to read a 650-750 word passage, then prepare a facts-based essay analyzing how the author builds his or her argument. Sixty percent of parents say the SAT essay will become harder, 15 percent say the essay will become easier and 25 percent say it will make no difference.


No Wrong Answer Penalty

The current SAT includes a ¼-point penalty for wrong answers. The new SAT eliminates the wrong answer point penalty. Fifty-six percent of parents say this change will make the new SAT easier; 22 percent say the change will make it harder and 23 percent say it will make no difference.

“It’s not surprising that most parents are still unaware of the upcoming SAT changes, as most are understandably focused on other aspects of the college admissions process like tuition, but the time to get all the facts about the test changes is now as test day is quickly approaching,” says Lee Weiss, vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “Our survey found that the more parents learn about the new SAT, the more they understand how challenging the content will be for their kids. There is no doubt that the new SAT is more rigorous than the current one.” 

Fore more information about the upcoming changes to the SAT, visit For a series of short videos about the new SAT, visit 


*This e-survey was conducted in May 2015 of 309 self-described parents of college-bound students. This article was reprinted with permission from Kaplan Test Prep.