The New SAT: Writing
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Did you miss Part 4 of the series? Read it here

The New SAT: Writing

Written by: ArborBridge's Megan Stubbendeck


What will the new essay section consist of?

  • Format: 1 essay prompt, 1 reading passage
  • Time: 50 minutes

What’s changing on the essay?

Passage-Based Prompts: The old SAT asked students to write an essay on a universal theme or idea, such as the importance of rebellion or the meaning of justice. On the new SAT students will need to read a long passage and then write an essay exploring how the author builds his or her argument. Students will write about the author’s use of evidence, diction, and writing style. 

Consistent Prompts: Although the passage will change on each SAT, the instructions that students are given will always remain the same. Students will be asked to write about how the author uses evidence and style to persuade the reader.

Optional: The new SAT essay will be optional. However, some colleges may still require that students submit an essay score when applying to college. In those cases, a student will need to be sure to have taken the essay at least once.

Sequence: Currently, the essay is the first section of the SAT. On the new exam, the essay will come at the end of the test.

More Time: Because students will need to read a passage in order to write their essays, students will have twice as much time to write the new essay as they did on the old SAT.

Scoring: Essays will be scored based on a student’s understanding of the passage, analysis of the issues, and use of proper grammar and style. 

What’s staying the same on the essay?

No Prior Knowledge Necessary: Although the reading passages will cover a variety of topics, students will not need to have any prior knowledge about the topic in order to write a strong essay.

Importance of Thesis and Writing Skills: The SAT graders will still want to see a strong thesis in every essay. When assigning a score, they will also consider how well a student writes and if the body of the essay supports the thesis.

Sample Essay

Remember, the new SAT won’t go into effect until Spring 2016. Until then, students will take the old exam. For more information on the entire test and how it might affect your testing timeline, see: The New SAT: A Preview of the Changes.

Megan S.Megan Stubbendeck,
Associate Director of Instruction

Dr. Megan Stubbendeck is a seven-year veteran of the test prep industry with ten years of teaching experience. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Virginia, where she taught for three years in the History Department. She brings many years of experience as both an Elite Instructor and the Coordinator of Instructor Development at Revolution Prep. In those roles, Megan developed new approaches to standardized testing on a variety of exams, including the SAT, ACT, PSAT, ISEE, SSAT, SAT Subject Tests, IB’s, AP’s, TOEFL, and IGCSE. As an Associate Director of Instruction at ArborBridge, Megan will help ArborBridge’s curriculum team tackle new developments in secondary education and standardized testing.
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