If you’re a high school student, you probably know that the SAT is going through a transition. Any student who takes the SAT from March 2016 onward will take the redesigned version of the test. Among other things the redesigned SAT will have a revised scoring scale (out of 1600 instead of 2400) and a revamped essay.
You can read more about the new SAT here, but we’ve outlined a few things that you should know about the new SAT essay.
1. It’s not mandatory.
When you sign up for the SAT, you can choose whether you would like to take the essay along with the rest of the test. Though this is undoubtedly good news for students who dislike essay-writing, keep in mind that many schools will require or strongly recommend an SAT essay score for admission. College Board has a list of the schools in the US that say they will require the new SAT, though keep in mind that this data might change. However, keep in mind that when you send your scores to schools, there’s no option to exclude your score on essay, even if the school doesn’t require it.
2. It’s scored differently.
The current SAT includes Reading, Writing, and Math sections, each worth 800 points. The current SAT requires a short essay, and graders give test-takers a score out of 12. That score out of 12 is then factored into the Writing section for your total score out of 800. The new SAT includes a Reading/Writing and a Math section, each worth 800 points. The essay is scored on a scale of 6-24. But unlike with the current SAT, your essay score is kept separate from your writing score. In other words, your past SAT score might have looked something like Reading: 700, Math: 710, Writing: 700 (including both the essay and multiple choice). But the new SAT score will look something like this: Reading/Writing: 710, Math: 720, Essay: 21.
3. The prompt is different.
In the past decade, SAT essays have normally asked students to take a position on a broad question of philosophical or moral relevance. For example, students might be asked whether deception is ever permissive or whether our culture places too much emphasis on individuality. There’s no right answer to these questions, the test-makers judge each essay on the student’s ability to clearly argue their point.
However, the new SAT will focus on analysis rather than open-ended questions. For the most part, this is the prompt that will be used for essay questions for the new SAT essay: “As you read the passage below, consider how [author name] uses: evidence (such as facts or examples) to support claims; reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence; stylistic elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.”
4. You’ve got more time.
Instead of having only 25-minutes to answer the question, you’ll have 50 minutes. Though this might be an advantage for students who take a little bit longer to get to their point, remember that a longer amount of time means a more cohesive essay.
5. The answers are being judged on a different scale.
The new SAT follows a different rubric. On the current SAT, you’re given an overall score out of 6 by two different reviewers. Those scores are added together for a final score between 2 and 12. However, the redesigned SAT has a much more detailed rubric. Each of the reviewers give the writer a score out of 4 for each of the following categories: understanding of the original passage; effective analysis of the passage; command of written English. The reviewers scores out of 12 are added together for a total essay score between 6 and 24. You can see the full rubric from College Board here.