The New SAT

Understanding the modified outline and expectations of the new Language SAT.

By Matthew Spinogatti


students testing

What was your SAT score? Do you even remember? Regardless of school district, GPA, or current academic standing, teenagers across the nation fear taking the SAT. There are SAT prep courses, cram sessions, and student study groups. Kids study SAT vocabulary, buy study books, or begin taking the exam years in advance just for the practice, and with college admission becoming so competitive, who can blame them? However, as the Common Core standards have been introduced and lessons implemented, the SAT has had a make-over to better align itself for the “college-ready student.”

The Redesigned SAT

The SAT is being redesigned for Spring of 2016. The new writing topic is intended to mirror College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard 10. This standard states: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

To put it plainly, students need to understand what they are reading. Whether it be a piece of literature like Huckleberry Finn or a New York Times article, they will be expected to read, analyze, and synthesize the argument within the text.

Redesigned SAT Prompt

The redesigned prompt is not a secret, nor does it change. The College Board has released it because it is the task that is difficult, not the question. However, what does change is the article or piece of reading attached to the prompt. It may be literature or nonfiction. Either way, test takers are expected to do the following:

“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant aspects of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.”


In order to properly prepare for this portion of the SAT, students will need to understand tone, word choice, argumentative techniques, and author style. These are not exactly things that can be learned quickly or easily (a cram session the week of the test will not be beneficial). Instead, pupils will need to read and engage in conversation relevant to the reading. They will have to study both sides of an argument and observe how the author is using persuasion in order to influence the reader. They will need to know how to properly reference back to what an author is saying and both explain and analyze the words on the page.

To put it plainly, students need to understand what they are reading.

Additional Resources:

Reading Will HelpPrepare to Respond!Literature In History