The Revised SAT: What High School Students Need to Know

SAT prep

High school students can say “goodbye” to the SAT – the old version that is. Starting in March 2016, The College Board will introduce a redesigned SAT for students gearing up for college.

So what do you need to know? The biggest difference to note is the essay portion at the end of the test. This will be an optional, timed, 50-minute essay depending on whether or not the school you are applying to requires it completed. The essay will focus on the assessment of your skills in developing a cogent and clear written analysis of a provided source text.

The SAT redesign will also test you on your ability to analyze source texts, and understand and make effective use of evidence in reading and writing.

So, what will your SAT prep consist of for the new format? Here are 8 key changes to expect:

  • Relevant Words in Context

The redesigned SAT will focus on relevant words, the meanings of which depend on how they’re used. You’ll be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear. Put down the flashcards and pick up a book instead! No need to spend hours memorizing vocabulary words that you somehow manage to forget immediately after taking the test. Preparing for this section of the new SAT will require you to demonstrate the ability to interpret the meaning of the word based on how the word is used in your reading.

  • Command of Evidence

When you get to the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Essay sections of the new SAT, you’ll be asked to demonstrate your ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources. These include informational graphics and multi-paragraph passages excerpted from literature and literary nonfiction; texts in the humanities, science, history, and social studies; and career-related sources. Rather than answering a test question with your opinion written in a clear and precise manner, you’ll need to use direct quotes from the material you’re being tested on while providing examples that further support your response.

  • Essay Analyzing a Source

The focus of the Essay section on the redesigned SAT will be very different from the essay on the current SAT. For this section, you’ll read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience. You’ll also analyze the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive elements – a task that more closely mirrors college writing assignments. To understand how to analyze a source you’ll need to understand what it means to critique a piece of work. An author can write a short story that you enjoy, but the SAT will focus on asking you questions like, “What tools did the author use to make their point?” and  “How did the author format the story so that you would enjoy it?”

  • Focus on Math that Matters Most

The exam will focus in depth on three essential areas of math: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. Problem Solving and Data Analysis is about being quantitatively literate. It includes using ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science, and career contexts.  One of the best ways to study for the new math questions you’ll run into on the new SAT is by getting yourself comfortable working with linear equations.

  • Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts

In the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, questions will include literature and literary nonfiction references, but also feature charts, graphs, and passages like the ones you are likely to encounter in science, social science, and other majors and careers. You will be asked to do more than correct errors; you’ll edit and revise texts from the humanities, history, social science, and career contexts. The Math section will feature multi-step applications to solve problems in science, social science, career scenarios, and other real-life contexts.  Your SAT prep should include functions and statistics exercises to help you excel in this area.  You’ll need to demonstrate the ability to analyze a situation, determine the essential elements required to solve the problem, represent the problem mathematically, and carry out a solution.

  • Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies

You’ll also encounter challenging texts and informational graphics that pertain to issues and topics like those in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Questions in this section will ask you to read and comprehend texts, revise texts to be consistent with data presented in graphics, synthesize information presented through texts and graphics, and solve problems based in science and social science. To prep for this, get familiar with charts and graphs. Spending time reviewing the different types of graphs and how to interpret them will be extremely beneficial for you during your SAT prep.

  • Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation

The U.S. founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers, have helped inspire a conversation that continues to this day about the nature of civic life. This section of the redesigned SAT will require you to comprehend some of the most fundamental laws, codes, and premises that make up the foundation of the United States by enriching your studies with reading material from many of our country’s most treasured documents.

  • No Penalty for Wrong Answers

That’s right! The redesigned SAT will remove the penalty for wrong answers. You will earn points for the questions you answer correctly. This way, you can feel comfortable giving the best answer you have to every problem, even if you’re not 100% sure about it. If you find yourself completely stumped on a question, then narrow down your answers by eliminating those that you know to be incorrect – don’t just bubble in C! Then, go with your gut and choose the answer you feel is the correct one.

It’s never too early to get a head start on your SAT prep.  Working with a private tutor to start preparing for the redesigned SAT is a great way to get comfortable with the new test. You can also check out the College Board website for information on the redesigned SAT and a list of sample questions. Good luck!

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