Education: SAT Changes & Other Testing Advice


Editor’s Note: Linda Tarsa, the owner of College Nannies & Tutors of Cary, contributed this article to help students and their parents understand what’s new about the SAT.

Cary, NC — The SAT is one of the most popular college entrance exams in the country. Recently, some big changes have been announced by The College Board, the non-profit that created and administers the test. There is a lot of confusion about these changes.

This article will attempt to clarify some of this.

The New SAT

First – and this is important – the newly designed SAT will not be given until 2016. March 5, 2016 to be exact. What makes this confusing is that the PSAT/NSMQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) administered to all Wake County Sophomores this October will be based on the new SAT. It is also important to understand that, for your student to qualify for National Merit Scholarships, your student must take the test as a junior.

Taking the free test as a sophomore does not count. If you do reasonably well, plan on registering (and paying a small fee) to take the test again next year.

Advice for Testers

So, the SAT test dates for October 13 through January 23 will all be the current, “old” version. Seniors should not delay taking the test; even if you only intend on going to community college, you still need to have either an SAT or ACT test score to apply.

If you did not do well on your junior year ACT, then take one of the fall or winter SAT exams. This is important, because test scores from the newly designed SAT given in March, May and June will not be available until after the June 4 test, which will be too late for many applications.


Here are some ways the SAT is changing:

  • The test will adhere closely to common core curriculum standards.
  • The reading sections will be more robust.
  • Scoring for the Math and English/Writing sections will run from 200-800, so total scores will range from 400-1600 (compared to the current 2400). Sub scores and cross scores are being evaluated and may be part of the reported scoring.
  • There is an optional essay – scoring will be separate, ranging 2-8.
  • The basic test is 45 minutes shorter than the old one, but, if you do the optional essay section, it is about the same length.
  • There is no longer any penalty for wrong answers. Previously, ¼ pt was deducted for each wrong answer.
  • You can expect charts and graphs throughout both reading and math sections.
  • Instead of 10 short sections that alternate between reading, math and writing, there will be five long sections:
    • 2 Math (55 minute section with calculator use and 25 minute section without)
    • 65 min Reading section with 4 long passages and 1 paired passage
    • 35 minute Writing section which includes revising and editing a piece of writing for logical structure and effective rhetoric.
    • 50 minute optional essay. Students will read a lengthy passage and analyze and evaluate the authors reasoning. Although optional, some colleges may require it.

News About the ACT

Finally, North Carolina began using the ACT as a state assessment tool in 2013, partly because it’s believed to be a better indicator of academic content learned rather than a theoretical measurement of college “readiness.”

These new changes to the SAT actually make it much more like the ACT.

For NC students, the ACT is a great option, since they will be taking it the spring of their junior year. Juniors can prepare by taking a practice test in the fall or winter and then do some diligent test prep tutoring either on their own or through one of many available local tutoring companies.

Then, when they take the test in school in March (free), those scores may be good enough to get them in to the college of their choice.


Story by Linda Tarsa. Photo by ccarlstead.


CaryCitizen is sponsored in-part by College Nannies & Tutors of Cary.