The new SAT vs the old SAT: Which is better?

By Ashley Eneriz
06/03/2015
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In March 2016, CollegeBoard will begin administering a new SAT test. Before you get too excited, know that new doesn't always mean better. For students who were planning to take the SAT in the next two years, it may not necessarily be best to wait for the new version. Here’s why.

The bad

1. Too new can mean bugs

The problem with the new SAT test is that CollegeBoard will not be able to roll it out problem-free. Taking the new SAT while it's still in its beginning stages is like signing up to be CollegeBoard’s guinea pig. There is no telling whether the odds will be in your favor if the initial exams have problems. Therefore, it may be wiser to wait until mid to late 2016 to take the new SAT. This will allow ample time for all of the kinks to be ironed out. Of course, you can avoid the new test altogether by taking the old SAT before January 2016.

2. Wait for more test insight

Taking the new SAT right out of the gate also means that you will have less study material to choose from. If you wait until the end of 2016 to take the new test, there will be a lot more choices for study material, which means you'll have a greater opportunity for getting a better score.

The SAT was last updated in 2005. A new writing section was added as a way to diversify the test, and the test moved to a 2400-point grading scale. However, these changes didn't sit well with everyone. Many people accused the test of being biased in favor of individuals with greater access to study materials and financial resources. The new SAT test will be more straightforward like the ACT test. Here are the major changes.

The good

What the new test will be like

  • The old 1600-point grading scale will be back. The verbal and math section will be worth 800 points.
  • CollegeBoard shaved 45 minutes off the test, meaning the new test will only take 3 hours to complete.
  • The essay section will no longer required, it'll be optional.
  • Vocabulary words will be getting a piece of humble pie. You can expect to find more practical vocabulary words on the test that can be defined based on the context of a passage. You can kiss crazy words like anathema and perfidious goodbye.
  • The math section will be more straightforward. You can expect math questions in algebra, arithmetic, and geometry.
  • Multiple choice questions will have four choices instead of five.
  • Best of all, there will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers, so you'll be able to guess on questions you don't know without hurting your overall score.

The old test or the new test?

Whichever SAT exam you wish to take is up to you. If you have already been studying for the exam, then it's better to take the old SAT before January 2016. If you haven't started on test prep and have time, it might be better to wait until after June 2016 to start studying and preparing for the new test. Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

Do you know anything else that will or won’t be on the new SAT? Do you think it’s better to take it now or wait? Tell us in the comments below.

About the author

Ashley Eneriz has been writing about personal finance and financial aid for the past eight years and has a passion for helping students make wise financial choices. She lives in California with her husband and two daughters. She loves writing, reading, and is a sucker for thrift stores and garage sales.

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