Your Guide to the New SAT

Posted by Zoe Balaconis on 12/4/15 9:00 AM

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The new 2016 SAT is promising to be very different from the SAT we’ve come to know, but don’t worry. Since this exam is testing you more on your critical thinking skills rather than specific information, if you’ve been practicing your reading comprehension and mathematical skills steadily throughout the academic year, you’re well on your way to being very prepared. Here are a few things to know about the new SAT before delving into it:

Just Two Sections:

Instead of three sections, there will be two: math and evidence-based reading and writing. Each will be scored on a scale of 200-800, and there will be no penalty for guessing. So, if you’ve gotten used to leaving questions blank, try and break the habit.

Key Takeaway: When in doubt, guess.  

Less Multiple Choice Options:

The great news about the new test is the odds will be in your favor. The number of possible answers is going from five to four, so if you are able to eliminate any answers at all your chances are very good.

Key Takeaway: Use the process of elimination.

New Essay Section:

The essay section is becoming optional, which will be welcome news to many. It’s also getting a drastic change in focus and format. Instead of asking you to write about your personal experiences, it asks for more directed analysis. You may be asked to read an excerpt from a speech and describe how the orator used evidence or reasoning to be persuasive. Anyone who’s taken the AP English Exam will be familiar with this type of essay question. Whether you’ve taken it or not, looking over that exam’s essay questions would be a great way to prepare for the new SAT.

Key Takeaway: Use the essay section to show off your skills of analysis and critical thinking, rather than narrative writing.

No More Obscure Vocabulary:

The new SAT will no longer require students to fill in the blanks with vocabulary words, but it will ask test-takers to understand difficult words using context clues. Instead of using flashcards to memorize definitions, I suggest you start reading regularly to prepare. The test writers suggest regularly reading a high-quality newspaper and nonfiction to improve reading speed, focus, and retention. Annotate and review what you just read to practice gleaning facts from passages. Ask yourself, what was this article about? Who is involved? What kinds of persuasive writing techniques are being used?

Key Takeaway: To prepare, regularly read nonfiction, like the newspaper or a reputable magazine.

Geometry is Out, Algebra is In:

The math section is going to see some changes as well. Geometry questions are being phased out, while the amount of algebra will increase, especially linear equations, inequalities, and systems of equations in two variables. The math questions, in general, will be more difficult and cover more advanced math, including statistics and trigonometry, which may make taking the SAT early more difficult. There will also be many more word problems with “real-world” situations. One section will also prohibit the use of a calculator, so students should practice working out solutions with pencil and paper.

Key Takeaway: Focus your studying on Algebra problems, and be able to do them without a calculator.

It’s Still Long:

With the essay, the test will take a whopping 3 hours and 50 minutes, five minutes longer than the current SAT. So, like the old format, the new SAT will be testing students’ stamina and ability to stay focused as much as anything else. Thought the test will reward a slightly different type of thinking (more analysis and critical thinking, less specific knowledge), it is still so important to practice with sample tests to get familiar with the tricks and types of questions.

Key Takeaway: Pace yourself and use practice tests to get in the habit of working quickly and efficiently.

Need more help with the SAT? Check out other blog posts on our site, written by our private SAT tutors in New York and Boston: 4 Vital Rules for Beating the SAT EssayACT Math vs. SAT Math: What's the Difference?Why You Should Wear a Bathrobe on Test Day. Feel free to contact us if you'd like to work with a private SAT tutor! 

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Tags: SAT