With the January SAT now in the past, the redesigned SAT is here! Starting in March 2016, high school students will face a very different SAT than those in the years before them. Despite all of the changes, the SAT remains a long, difficult test that focuses on students’ math and English skills. However, all of the changes do mean that students will need to drastically change how they prepare for the SAT. The test remains learnable and coachable, but the strategies and approaches will need to be modified for the new version of the SAT.
What Has Changed?
1) 1600 is perfect again – The new SAT is composed of a Mathematics score and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score that are both out of 800 points. The scoring changes put an even higher emphasis on math, with half of the score coming from the math sections instead of a third on the old 2400 point SAT.
2) No More Penalty For Wrong Answers – The SAT has gotten rid of the penalty for incorrect answers, so students no longer need to debate over whether or not guessing is worth it. Now, you should always bubble in an answer. Even if you are out of time or unsure, guess away!
3) Vocab Boxes Be Gone – On the new SAT, students will no longer need to know obscure vocabulary like “maladroit” or “perspicacious” that they may never use again. The test now only challenges students to define a word based on how the context it is used in within a reading passage.
4) Fewer Answer Choices – The SAT now only has four answer choices instead of five.
5) Put Down The Calculator – The SAT now has a “no-calculator” math section that requires students to use mental math, graphing skills, and core math principles. For students who struggle in math, this section may be a good reason to pick the ACT over the SAT, as the ACT allows students to use a calculator for all math problems on the exam.
6) Get Ready for Longer Sections – The new SAT consists of 4 long sections, just like the ACT. The 4 sections are Reading (65 min), Writing and Language (35 min), Math with a calculator (55 min), and Math without a calculator (25 min). Formerly, the SAT had 10 shorter sections that were 10-25 minutes, so students went back-and-forth between Math, English, and Reading. Now with the longer sections, time management and pacing is more important than ever!
7) Check Out Those Charts – Charts and graphs will pop up across the test in the English, Reading, and Math sections. In an effort to mirror the Science section of the ACT, the SAT has included these charts and graphs to provide a cross-test Science score. Confused about what this score means and why it matters? Trust me…you’re not the only one!
8) A New, Longer Essay – The new essay is a 50-minute free response that asks students to read a passage, analyze how the writer builds an argument, and support their explanation with evidence from the passage. While the essay is now optional, some schools will be requiring it, so students should plan to complete the essay as well.