At this week’s annual conference of NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors), Collegiate Gateway had the opportunity to speak directly with the staff of the College Board about plans for the new PSAT and SAT testing, to be implemented in 2015-2016. Upcoming changes were described as “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Overall, the tests will be more context-based: both vocabulary and math problems will be viewed within a context and not presented in an abstract way.  Here’s the latest on the new PSAT and SAT.


Below is a chart of the launch date for the new PSAT and SAT, as well as when practice tests will be available.  The new PSAT and new SAT will have the same content, except that the SAT will have an optional essay.  In March 2015, the College Board is expected to post an online full-length practice PSAT, written by both Khan and the College Board.




PSAT October 2015 March 2015
SAT Spring 2016 (probably March) May 2015



The College Board identified the following features in their new approach to testing:

  • Relevant words in context: The tests will no longer include obscure words, but rather everyday words with meanings that are influenced by context.
  • Command of evidence. Students will be asked to demonstrate understanding of the evidence the authors of documents used to support his/her claim.
  • Focus on “math that matters most.” Three mathematical areas will be tested: algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, and higher-level math (including trigonometry, pre-calculus and statistics).
  • Problems grounded in real-world contexts. For example, math problems may relate to science applications, such as interpreting a chart on bacteria growth.
  • Analysis in science and social studies. Throughout the math, reading and writing questions, applications to science and social studies will be integrated. While there will not be a separate section for science (as in the ACT) or social studies, there will be a new score called “Insight,” to measure students’ grasp of the social sciences.
  • Founding documents and great global conversation. Every exam will have at least one example of a significant historical document, such as the Constitution. Students will be asked questions that require contextual understanding. For example, in the Gettysburg address, Lincoln uses the word “dedicated” seven times; students could be asked about the different meanings of the word, based on context.
  • Essay analyzing a source: optional section. Colleges continue to consider primarily the Critical Reading and Mathematics sections of the SAT; the Writing section (which includes the essay) has never caught on as an accepted portion of the SAT.  The College Board is now making the essay optional (similar to the ACT), though some colleges will require it. The prompt itself will not change, and will be available on the website  Instead, the source material (passage) will change, and  students will be asked to identify how the author supports the thesis.  Students’ own opinions will no longer be involved.
  • No penalty for wrong answers.  The SAT has previously had a ¼ point penalty for wrong answers; the new test will not. Correct answers will receive 1 point; incorrect or omitted answers will receive 0 points, similar to the ACT approach to scoring. The goal is lessen the importance of test-taking and guessing strategies..

Though some colleges are becoming test-optional, standardized testing is still considered the third most important factor in college admissions, after grades and rigor of curriculum.  Colleges vary in their testing requirements, as well as what they consider competitive test scores for admission – sorting through it all can get complicated. If you need any help, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.