Compare SAT Specifications

beginning of content:

Get an overview of how the new SAT differs from the one students took before March 2016. The first table compares the major features. The second table compares the number of items and testing times in each part.

Major Features Compared

Comparison of the Major Features: Pre-March-2016 SAT and New SAT
Category Pre-March-2016 SAT New SAT

Total Testing Time

3 hours and 45 minutes 3 hours (plus 50 minutes for the Essay [optional])
Components
  1. Critical Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Mathematics
  4. Essay
  1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
    • Reading Test
    • Writing and Language Test
  2. Math
  3. Essay (optional)
Important Features
  • Emphasis on general reasoning skills
  • Emphasis on vocabulary, often in limited contexts
  • Complex scoring (a point for a correct answer and a deduction for an incorrect answer; blank responses have no impact on scores)
  • Focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success
  • Greater emphasis on the meaning of words in extended contexts and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact
  • Rights-only scoring (no penalty for guessing)
Essay
  • Required and given at the beginning of the SAT
  • 25 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests writing skill; students take a position on a presented issue
  • Optional and given at the end of the SAT; postsecondary institutions determine whether they will require the Essay for admission
  • 50 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; students produce a written analysis of a provided source text
Score Reporting
  • Scale ranging from 600 to 2400
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Critical Reading; 200 to 800 for Mathematics; 200 to 800 for Writing
  • Essay results scaled to multiple-choice Writing
  • Scale ranging from 400 to 1600
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing; 200 to 800 for Math; 2 to 8 on each of three dimensions for Essay
  • Essay results reported separately
Subscore Reporting None Subscores for every test, providing added insight for students, parents, admission officers, educators, and counselors

Test Length and Timing Compared

Comparison of Test Length and Timing: Pre-March-2016 SAT and New SAT
Pre-March-2016 SAT New SAT
Component Time Allotted
(min.)
Number of Questions/
Tasks
Component Time Allotted
(min.)
Number of Questions/
Tasks
Critical Reading 70 67 Reading 65 52
Writing 60 49 Writing and Language 35 44
Essay 25 1 Essay (optional) 50 1
Mathematics 70 54 Math 80 58
Total 225 171 Total 180 (230 with Essay) 154 (155 with Essay)