SAT Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the major changes to the 2016 SAT?

A: The 2016 SAT has been redesigned in terms of content, administration, and scoring. Major changes include a 1600-point scoring system, no penalty for guessing, an optional and separately scored Essay section, a more focused Math section, and a new Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section that aims to test verbal skills that are considered more relevant to college study. A greater variety of scores are also given on the new SAT, including total scores, section scores, test scores, subscores, and cross-test scores.

Q: Why has the College Board revised the test?

A: The SAT has been extensively criticized for evaluating irrelevant skills and for favoring students from wealthier families. The new SAT attempts to answer these critics. The changes have also been motivated by the increasing number of students taking the ACT, which is the SAT's main competitor.

Q: Do these changes impact student preparation?

A: Many of the old preparation strategies do not apply to the new SAT. Students must seek out materials and instruction that are specific to the 2016 SAT.

Q: What are the differences between the 2016 SAT and the ACT?

A: The two tests evaluate many of the same skills, and most universities that require an admissions test will accept either the SAT or the ACT. However, the content and purpose of the tests differ in some respects. The most important content distinction is the fact that the ACT has a dedicated science section, while the 2016 SAT evaluates analytical abilities in science primarily through the assessment of other skills. The new SAT adopts some of the features of the ACT, such as enhanced scoring. The stated purpose of the ACT is to measure "academic achievement," while the SAT is intended to assess "reasoning abilities." SAT proponents therefore argue that their preferred test is a superior indicator of student potential, but this is (of course) disputed by ACT advocates.

Q: I live outside of the United States. Can I take the 2016 SAT overseas?

A: Absolutely. The test has long been offered in numerous other countries, and this will not change. See the College Board website for specific policies by country.

Q: How is the 2016 SAT written and developed?

A: The SAT is written by subject-matter experts and then reviewed by committees of high school teachers and college professors.

Q: What are the College Board's privacy policies?

A: Federal law protects student data, and these laws broadly apply to SAT scores. The College Board will generally not disclose your SAT scores without your permission, although there are exceptions to this policy for purposes such as research or educational administration. In those cases, data is usually given without identifying students by name.

Q: How many times am I allowed to take the SAT?

A: The College Board has no official policies limiting retakes. This means that students are only limited by the number of times the test is offered. Students commonly take the SAT in the spring of their junior year, and often again in the fall of their senior year. Students should check with the institutions to which they are applying for appropriate policies. Some schools consider only the highest score, while others consider the average score of all test attempts.

Q: What do I need to know about test security, fairness, and academic honesty?

A: The College Board works diligently to ensure security for the test, which helps promote fairness by preventing advance knowledge of test passages, questions, and answers. Security measures include offline test creation and storage, secure transportation of test materials, and various policies while taking the test. During the test's administration, students are not allowed to leave the testing center, are not allowed to use electronic devices, are not allowed to share answers, and are not allowed to take the test on behalf of someone else. Violations of these policies result in cancellation of scores and (if any applicable laws have been broken) possible prosecution.