Is The World Changing For Better Essay Sat Topics

If you took the SAT last year and are hoping to take it again soon, you may discover that the test you take starting in the 2014-2015 school year is very different than your previous attempts, but don’t worry! The SAT is being redesigned to make it a more effective and accurate reflection of what college and the “real world” will be like. This means that there will be both major and minor changes you should know about.

The biggest concern that students have is, “how long is the new SAT?” But, a close second is, “will I still get penalized for wrong answers?” We will answer those questions, and more, in this article. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about the SAT’s new format, and gain information on how to get a great score.

Differences Between the Current SAT and New SAT

The table below will outline some of the biggest changes on the 2016 SAT test as compared to the current SAT. It’s especially important to note that the scoring system is very different this time around. If you took the SAT in the fall of 2015 and got a 1600, even if you do better on the retest, you will most likely get a lower score on the new exam. But don’t panic! This doesn’t mean you did worse. It can actually mean you did better! Keeping reading to find out why this is!

“Old” SAT

New 2016 SAT

3 hours and 45 minutes long3 hours long (3 hours and 50 minutes if you write the optional essay.
Critical Reading
Writing (+ required essay)
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
Essay (Optional)
Focuses on:
Arbitrary strategy and reasoning
Focuses on:
Applied knowledge
Words in context
Purposeful reasoning (with an emphasis on college readiness)
Has a required 25-minute essay, which is given at the beginning of the test. The score is factored into the writing section.Has an optional 50-minute essay, which is given at the end of the test. The score is reported separately from the rest of the exam.
Multiple-choice questions have 5 answer choices.Multiple-choice questions have 4 answer choices.
Has 1 ¼point deduction for each wrong answer. This means that every 4 incorrect answers canceled out 1 correct one.Has no deduction for wrong answers (also known as a guessing penalty).
How the test is scored:
Total scores range from 600-2400
Section scores range from 200-800
How the test is scored:
Total scores range from 400-1600
Section scores range from 200-800
How are scores reported?
Paper Only
No subscores reported
How are scores reported?
Paper and digital formats available
Subscores reported

SAT Test Structure

Now that you understand the differences between the two tests, the first thing you should know about the 2016 SAT is it has a new and improved content structure. This means that your pacing and endurance strategies will have to be different than the old SAT, because the sections are set up differently.

Let’s look at it like this: 

“Old” SAT

New 2016 SAT

3 Critical Reading Sections
· 67 multiple-choice questions
· 70 minutes total
1 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section
· 65-minute Reading
· 35-minute Language and Writing
3 Math Sections
· 44 multiple-choice questions and 10 write in
· 70 minutes total
1 Math Section
· 55-minute section with calculator
· 25-minute section without calculator
3 Writing Sections
· 49 multiple-choice questions
· 1 25 minute Essay
· 60 minutes total
1 Essay Section (optional)
· 50 minutes total

A quick note before we move on: you’ll notice that the new SAT’s format is pretty similar to that of the ACT. This means that instead of throwing short sections of mixed up content as you like 25 minutes of math here, 35 minutes of writing there, the SAT is now giving you longer periods of time to work on a single subject. This will aid your pacing and endurance. Find out how below!

Now Let’s Dive Further Into Each of the New Sections and See How Different the New SAT Really is.

If you don’t write the optional essay (which you really should do, since it is scored separately, it can’t technically hurt your composite scores – but more on that later), the new SAT is actually 45 minutes shorter than the old one. Let’s take a quick look at the content that makes up that time.

SAT Math

If you, or maybe even an older sibling, have taken the old SAT, you probably remember that there were three different math sections that contain a total of 54 questions. The old SAT covers topics such as arithmetic, Algebra I, Geometry, and a little bit of Algebra II. You may also remember that you were allowed to use a calculator on all math sections.

The redesigned SAT, however, is quite different. Many of the questions will be application-based and have multiple steps. This means that the 2016 math sections require more critical thinking and reasoning (just like the real world!), as well as higher-level math, such as trigonometry. Not only will need to know how to apply formulas to real-life situations, you will also need to understand the theories behind certain mathematic principles.

Two new things for 2016 that are very different: There is one grid-in question that is worth 4 points. Grid-in questions are exactly as they sound: there are no answer choices to guide your process, so you must produce your own answer and bubble it in on your answer sheet. The second new feature is that there will be an entire section of math that you are not allowed to use your calculator on. But don’t let that stress too much,as the questions are mostly logic-based. Just be sure to know your multiplication tables!

Here’s a quick example:

If { a }^{ 2 }+14a=51 and a>0, what is the value of a+7?

No need to panic! Since A > 0, start running through numbers that add up to 51 when squared and added to 14 times the original number.

Your process might look like this:

2X2=4 and 14X2=28…Nope, that’s going to be big enough. Okay, let me try 3.

3X3=9 and 14X3=42. 42 + 9 = 51! Boom! So the answer to A+7 is 10!

Make sure you stay calm and keep thinking. It’s also helpful to jot some things down as you go, because while the new SAT gives you a little more time per section and more multiple-choice minutes, if you keep starting from the beginning when something goes wrong, you’ll eat it all up.

Some other key topics you’ll need to understand for the new SAT include:

1. Ratios and percentages

2. Linear equations

3. Complex equation manipulation

Will the 2016 Math section be harder?

No, not really. Just make sure you prepare for the new format and focus on what’s going to be tested. Just remember that the current test focuses on computational skills, while the 2016 SAT will focus more on real-world problem solving.

SAT Reading and Writing

The old SAT had sections that cover your Critical Reading and Writing Skills. The Critical Reading section had a variety of questions such as sentence completion, which tests your vocabulary and multiple-choice questions based on both long and short passages, which you have to read within a certain time limit. The Writing Skills section consisted of an essay, sentence correction questions, and multiple-choice paragraph reorganization. Each section was divided into multiple parts and sprinkled throughout the test in approximately 30-minute increments. This made the test seem longer and harder, because your brain was always jumping around between subjects.

The new SAT, however, is very different! As we mentioned, this tests are now all compartmentalized by subject. So you can focus your brain into “reading mode” and get to work. While the timing is only a little bit short on the new SAT, it feels longer because for most students, it’s easier to focus on one thing at a time.

What will the questions on the New SAT be like?

First, there will be no sentence completion questions, meaning you won’t really have to study those notoriously difficult SAT vocabulary words. Instead, you will have to understand the meanings of words in context. For example, “custom” can mean specially made like “a custom fitted gown” or a particular way of doing this as in “it is our custom to hug three times upon meeting.” Your job would be to read the surrounding sentences for clues, and then pick the answer that best describes how it works in that context.

The 2016 test will focus on evidence-based reading, meaning you have to interpret passages based on US and World Literature, History, and Science. You may be see graphs, charts, and images in the reading and writing sections. If you’ve taken the ACT, you might recognize those kinds of questions from the Science section.

For example, you might be shown something similar to the following chart:

Image Source: The College Board

And be asked to interpret the data on it. No big deal, right?

The SAT Writing Section will also have quite a few straightforward questions that require you to check the grammar and punctuation of passages.

All in all, the new SAT focuses on understanding words, sentences, and grammar in context, as opposed to testing your rote memorization skills.

The SAT Essay

Now here is a pretty big change! The new SAT Essay creates the biggest time change between the two tests. The old test comes with a required, 25-minute timed essay question required you to respond to a short prompt about social, moral, or political issues. You had to create your own unique point of view and sustain your argument by providing supporting evidence, such as personal experiences and outside quotes.

The 2016 SAT, however, does not require you to write an essay. The essay will be redesigned to be entirely optional, with a score that is separate from the rest of the test. If you choose to write an essay, it’s important to know that you will have 50 minutes to read a passage (600-700 words) and write an essay that analyzes the author’s persuasion techniques. You will need a deep understanding of how authors build their arguments and be able to write an insightful essay based on the passage.

While adding 50 minutes to the end of an already long test might seem like too much work, it’s really not. Even when it is used wisely, the time will fly by. It might be encouraging for you to hear that the passages featured so far have been engaging. Also, while the College Board might consider the new essay optional, many colleges do not. It’s always a better idea to have taken the essay and not need it, then need it and not have taken it –especially if you are taking the test as a junior and are still undecided about the kinds of colleges you want to attend.

SAT Scores

Now that we’ve gone over the changes in timing and content of individual sections, let’s take a look at the new and improved scoring system. You’ll probably be excited to know that there will be absolutely no deductions for wrong answers. Gone are the days of being arbitrarily strategic about guessing. You can feel completely free to make educated guesses without fear of losing points!

You may also recall that the current SAT has a composite scoring range of 600-2400. The individual Critical Reading, Math, and Writing sections are scored on a 200-800 scale. However, the 2016 SAT will be very different. First, the scale will be from 400-1600. The maximum score you can get on each section of the new SAT, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Mathematics, will be 800 each. When you take the 2016 SAT test, you will receive these scores:

2 section scores (200–800)

·   Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

·   Math

3 test scores (10–40) Plus Essay score

·   Reading

·   Writing and Language

·   Math

7 Subscores (1–15)

·  Words in Context

·  Command of Evidence

·  Expression of Ideas

·  Standard English Conventions

·  Heart of Algebra

·  Passport to Advanced Mathematics

·   Problem Solving and Data Analysis

2 Cross-test scores

·   Analysis in Science

·   Analysis in History/Social Studies

Essay score

·   Two raters will grade your essay on a 1-4 scale based on each of these criteria: Reading (they have to make sure you actually thoroughly read the prompt) Analysis (they want to make sure you understand the author’s argument and how its being presented) and Writing (how well you get your point across). The combined score of the two raters will be your final score.

·   The highest score you can get on your Essay is 24.

You should not be too concerned about the changes to the 2016 SAT. Remember that the test creators at the College Board have redesigned the test to benefit you, and not to make it harder.

A Quick Review:

·   A new version of the SAT made its debut in March 2016

·   The time varies: If you complete the optional essay, the test is exactly 4 hours long, including breaks.

·   If you don’t write the essay, the test is approximately 3 hours and 5 minutes long, including breaks.

With this knowledge of the new SAT, you will be ready to prepare for the next time you take the test, or for the first time you take the test! Never again will you wonder, “how long is the SAT?” because now you know.

What Are The Next Steps?

It’s time to get to work!

You can read about when to start studying for the SAT here, or check out the blog about how long to study for the SAT.

Looking for SAT practice?

Kickstart your SAT prep with Albert. Start your AP exam prep today.

There's a persistent myth about the SAT Essay: the idea that you can't prepare content because you don't see the prompt until the day of the test. This is a myth because, in order to be standardized, the test has to require the same complexity of argument in every SAT essay question: yes or no, this or that, what causes what.

And since all these arguments are very simple, almost every SAT essay argument can be boiled down to one of the 6 we list here. In addition to that, though, we also explain how to argue each one, and give you sample support for both sides of every argument. Read on for the inside scoop on this important aspect of the SAT.



SAT Essay prompts are unlike any other writing assignment. The questions are extremely general, asking things like "is the world changing for the better," but they only ever require a very simplistic thesis statement about a complex idea. There are, for example, many ways in which the world is and is not changing for the better. The most "accurate" answer would have to be "yes AND no," but that's the opposite of what you should say on the SAT.

Because on the SAT Essay, simplicity and clarity is the name of the game. You are expected to make a broad, definitive statement about what people 'should' do or whether something is possible. You don't have to believe it, you just have to present a few examples (between one and three) that can show why your statement is correct. In this way, the SAT Essay is easier than most students think.

All of the essay questions in this article are taken from real SATs or College Board prep materials. We've categorized them not by their content--for example, "success" or "personality"--but rather by their reasoning. This is because the logic of the question, not its content, is what determines the best argument on which to build your essay.

For each type of SAT essay question below, we give you 3 sample prompts similar to what you'll run into, and a breakdown of how to argue either side of any SAT essay question of that type. You'll get detailed SAT essay examples that guide you through how to construct an argument.


SAT Essay Prompt Type 1: Discuss what people should do

This type of SAT essay question lends itself to many different kinds of examples. Anything that involves people and their choices is fair game. See the diagram below for more information on how this works.

Should people….

  • be valued according to their capabilities rather than their achievements?
  • weight all opinions equally, or place more weight on informed opinions?
  • always value new things, ideas, or values over older ones?

Step 1: Pick a side. "Yes, people should always value new things, ideas, or values over older ones," or "no, people should not always value new things, ideas, or values over older ones."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). For example, if you argue "Yes, people should value new things" as your thesis, you can give evidence of a time when people valued new things and it turned out well, or of a time when people didn't value innovation and it turned out poorly.

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-world or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (see blue boxes for ideas). To support the Yes thesis with evidence of when people valued new things with success, we could talk about Civil Rights in the United States, the Industrial Revolution, FDR's new deal, or any other example dealign with positive innovation. We could also discuss evidence where refusal to accept new things turned out poorly, like fear of vaccinations and Galileo being excommunicated for his (true) scientific beliefs.


SAT Essay Prompt Type 2: Discuss which of two things is better

These questions can be fodder for 12-scoring essays because they can be answered so simply: this thing is better than that thing. Then you just have to think of 1-3 examples in which that thing worked and/or in which the other thing didn't work. See the diagram below for more information on how this can be done.

Is it better...

  • to take an idealistic approach or a practical approach?
  • to do fulfilling or high-paying work?
  • to use cooperation or competition to achieve success?

Step 1: Pick a side. "It is better to use cooperation to achieve success," or "it is better to use competition to achieve success."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). Similar to Prompt Type 1 above, in this case you can use evidence that supports your thesis, or argues against the opposite thesis. For example, if you write that "Cooperation is better to achieve success," you can use evidence on a time when cooperation led to success, or when competition led to failure.

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-life or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (blue boxes). Following our "cooperation is better" thesis, we can talk about when people cooperated to great success - like the Civil Rights movement, or Abraham Lincoln's cabinet during the Civil War. We could also discuss how competition is inferior through examples like the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, or the North Korea vs South Korea standoff.


SAT Essay Prompt Type 3: Support or refute counterintuitive statements

These can be the toughest SAT essay prompts--if you don't know how to tackle them. The easiest way to really knock this essay type out of the park is to say yes, it is possible, and then think of an example. The other side--no, it isn't possible--is harder to logically prove, but it can be done. See the diagram below for more information on how this works.

Is it possible for….

  • deception to have good results?
  • working to reach an objective to be valuable even if the objective is not reached?
  • any obstacle to be turned into something beneficial?

Step 1: Pick a side. "Yes, it is possible for any obstacle to be turned into something beneficial," or "no, it is not possible for any obstacle to be turned into something beneficial."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). Unlike the two prompt types above, this one is more simplistic - just find evidence that can support your thesis in a straightforward way. If you write "No, it's not possible for any obstacle to be turned into something beneficial," you just need to find evidence for when obstacles exist but don't lead to anything helpful.

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-life or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (see blue boxes). To support the No thesis, we could use the example of how gender discrimination against women and income inequality has caused far more harm than the good it has caused.

SAT Essay Prompt Type 4: Cause and effect

These can be logically complicated, depending on which side you choose. If you say x is the result of y, then you just have to think of 1-3 examples that illustrate it. If you choose the other side, though, then you have a harder logical task in front of you--your examples have to fit a much narrower definition to make sense. See the diagram below for more information on how this works.

Is __ the result of __?

  • Is a successful community the result of individuals sacrificing their personal goals?
  • Is accomplishment the result of freedom to do things one's own way?
  • Is learning the result of experiencing difficulties?

Step 1: Pick a side. "Yes, learning is the result of experiencing difficulties," or "no, learning is not the result of experiencing difficulties."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). For example, if our thesis is "Yes, learning is the result of experiencing difficulties," we can either argue with evidence of a time when learning IS the result of difficulty, or when a lack of difficulty led to an absence of learning. Both types of evidence support your thesis.

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-life or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (see blue boxes). For our Yes thesis, we could talk about how the difficulty of unmanageable healthcare costs in the USA led to learning and the Affordable Care Act. We could also use the other type of evidence and talk about how Jay Gatsby's lack of difficulty in having immense wealth led to poor learning about what really makes him happy.


SAT Essay Prompt Type 5: Generalize about the state of the world

These kinds of SAT essay prompts are so open-ended that they lend themselves to all kinds of examples and interpretations. But for this same reason, they can be overwhelming and confusing. See the diagram below for more information on how this works.

What is the modern world like?

  • Is the world more in need of creativity now more than ever?
  • Is the world actually harder to understand due to the abundance of information now available?
  • Is the world changing in a positive way?

Step 1: Pick a side. "Yes, the world is changing in a positive way," or "no, the world is not changing in a positive way."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). Let's consider the Yes thesis. We can use evidence that problems in the past that are being solved today, or innovations today that didn't previously exist. 

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-life or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (see blue boxes). To support our Yes thesis, we can find examples of problems that are better now - women's rights, slavery, and reduced violence. We can also discuss recent innovations that dramatically improve quality of life, like the Internet and widespread access to education.


SAT Essay Prompt Type 6: Generalize about people

Much like the "state of the world" questions, these can be supported by almost anything, but can also get away from you if you're not careful. See the diagram below for some ideas of how to manage these prompts.

What are people like?

  • Do people underestimate the value of community due to our culture of individualism?
  • Are people defined by their occupations?
  • Do people learn from the past?

Step 1: Pick a side. "Yes, people learn from the past," or "no, people do not learn from the past."

Step 2: Consider what would logically support your statement (see green boxes for a breakdown of the types of support you should use). Let's consider the No thesis that people don't learn from the past - we would have to find an example of when someone repeated a mistake that they could have avoided from history. 

Step 3: Quickly think of 1-3 real-life or literary examples that fit the criteria in Step 2 (see blue boxes). A great example to use for our No thesis is comparing Hitler and Germany to Napoleon. In 1812, Napoleon fought a war on multiple fronts, fighting the Spanish army and the Russian Empire simultaneously. This led to a drastic dilution of focus and led to his defeat. A century later in World War 2, Hitler fought on two fronts as well, facing the Allies in Europe and Russia at the same time. He too was defeated through this mistake.


What do I do now?

Now that you know the basic types of SAT essay prompts and the types of arguments they require, what can you do with this information? 

A few different things: one is to practice with these questions, thinking of one or two examples to support at least one answer to each question. We've written a guide to 6 SAT essay examples you can use to answer nearly every prompt.

We show you how to construct an SAT essay, step by step. If you want to get a perfect SAT essay score, read this.

Another is to take a look at our comprehensive SAT essay prompts article, which gives you lots more questions to think about answering and supporting with the arguments above.

Finally, make sure you read our 15 SAT essay tips to know how to get an edge on the essay.


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