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Chris Lele

How is the SAT essay changing?

Five ways the new SAT essay will be different:

If you’ve been watching the videos I’ve done so far on how the SAT is changing, you’ll realize that the SAT is changing an awful lot. Nowhere is this truer than the SAT essay, which is changing in so many ways it’s dizzying.

To make things more digestible here is a quick breakdown of these massive changes:

1. The redesigned essay will be optional.

This might seem like a piece of unequivocally good news. First off, on one end you have the many schools that will not require the essay (the good news). Then, you have many Ivy League or elite private schools that will require (the ok news). However, there is an unsettling gray area. Many of those schools not requiring the essay might prefer you send one anyhow. We just don’t know.

What’s not as nebulous is the following scenario: let’s say two students have similar academic records. An admissions board is looking for something to differentiate them. One gets a near perfect score on the SAT essay. The other doesn’t even take the SAT essay section. Which student would you be more likely to admit?

2. Each student will have 50 minutes to complete the redesigned essay (currently students have 25 minutes to finish the essay).

The fact that the essay is optional and that it takes 50 minutes to complete, might make it even less likely that you’ll opt in. The good news is that extra time won’t necessarily be dedicated to the writing of the essay. First off, you might have to read as many as 750 words (see #3). Secondly, you’ll be spending much of your time analyzing those 750 words and figuring out what to write. So, you’re not more likely to get writer’s cramp; though you may get brain cramp.

3. The redesigned essay will come with a prompt that is between 650-750 words long (the length of an SAT reading passage).

There will be a whole lot more for you to read. As long as you are prepared to dissect an essay in terms of its level of persuasiveness, basically its use of rhetoric, you should be fine.

4. You will have to analyze and assess the logic and persuasion of a full-length essay, rather than coming up with examples out of “thin air.”

Coming up with canned examples about Martin Luther King or Gandhi might make it easy to spend 25 minutes busily scribbling away (25 minutes is how time you are allowed on current essay). With the new test, you will have to spend that time analyzing a persuasive essay, not writing about how the time you flunked a math exam in 6th grade shows the importance of planning.

5. The essay will not count towards your other score (meaning your verbal score will be determined solely by how you do on the multiple-choice verbal section and the multiple-choice writing section).

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you are confused, remember: the essay is optional. Therefore, the essay score can’t be part of the non-optional exam score.


Did you know that Magoosh offers online test prep for the New SAT exam? We also give discounts for purchasing subscriptions for more than one exam. Learn more at


P.S. Ready to get your highest SAT score? Start here.
About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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