Ever since the SAT was introduced in 1926, The College Board has been adjusting it to ensure the test evaluates student aptitude as accurately as possible. In 2016, they again announced major changes to the test, especially the essay portion. To help you or your student get ready to take the SAT, we’ve highlighted three of the biggest changes and their significance.
1. The essay is now optional
If you’ve been dreading the essay portion of the test, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s no longer a requirement. If you do decide to take the essay, you’ll have to pay an extra $11.50 to register for the test. It will also take you about an hour longer to complete. Of course, the big question now that it’s optional is, should I take the SAT essay? The answer is easy: if any of the schools you want to attend require the essay, then pay the extra fee and complete it. (IPFW does not require or recommend students take the SAT essay.)
2. The essay time limit is longer
Previously, students were given 25 minutes to complete the essay portion of the SAT. That time allotment has now been doubled. If you’re undecided about whether or not you should take the essay, having the extra time may swing your decision, since you’ll have more time to brainstorm, review your answer, and edit your work.
3. The focus is now on analyzing a passage, not agreeing or disagreeing
The new essay is more standardized. You’ll receive the same prompt no matter when or where you take it, but the passage will be different on each test. You will be asked to read the passage and then explain how the author uses facts and examples to support a claim, connects those claims to evidence, and uses persuasive or stylistic elements to convince the reader. No matter who wrote the passage or what it’s about, it will express a specific viewpoint using logical reasoning and evidence. Instead of creating your own argument for or against the passage, this essay is more focused on comprehension—whether or not you understand what the author is saying and how they are saying it.
Preparing for the new SAT essay
If you want to take the new SAT essay, practice your reading comprehension skills. More than anything else, a successful response on the SAT essay shows that you understand the author’s argument and can point to a few examples of how they express that point. Also, be sure to check out The College Board’s SAT Essay Rubric for an in-depth look at what you’ll be expected to do on your essay.
Now that the essay format has changed, it’s more important than ever to incorporate essay preparation into your studying regimen for the SAT. For more information about preparing yourself for college applications, check out our Ultimate College Decision Timeline.