The time has come to talk about the new SAT, or – as College Board is calling it – the redesigned SAT. While I discussed this new exam briefly in episode 1 of the podcast, today I have more in-depth news to share with you about the new SAT questions.
FYI: The new SAT will take the place of the current SAT starting in Spring of 2016. The changes to the exam will affect students in the class of 2017 and higher. If you’re graduating in 2015 or 2016, this information will not affect you!
Listen Now: The New SAT – Who It Affects and What to Expect
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About Lauren Gaggioli
Lauren Gaggioli is the founder of Higher Scores Test Prep and the host of The College Checklist Podcast. After graduating from New York University with her B.F.A. in Theater, Lauren moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and began tutoring the SAT and ACT on the side. She quickly fell in love – not with the exams, but with the feeling that she was helping students put their feet on a firm path towards a big, bright future.
After 7 years working as an in-home tutor with a large test prep firm and then in her own independent tutoring company, Lauren distilled her experiences into the test prep courses that are now available through Higher Scores Test Prep. Lauren’s love of teaching and compassion for what students are facing in today’s complex, competitive college admissions landscape allows her to bring a little bit of calm to her corner of the college admissions process.
A Brief History
A new SAT was announced in February 2013 close on the heels of the SAT losing market share to the ACT for the first time. In March of this year – 2014 – we learned a little bit more about the timeline of the new exam’s release in a College Board press release. Even more recently, College Board released sample questions for the redesigned SAT which gives us a clearer picture of what our students can expect when the new test arrives.
NEW SAT Questions
Relevant Words in Context
This is a bit of a red herring. There are already words in context questions on the current SAT and these questions are pretty much exactly the same as what students see today. The only difference I noticed is change in the source material for the words. Right off the bat, it seems that College Board is using passages that are more dense (i.e. boring) than the typical reading passage on the test today.
Bottom line: Vocab is still alive and well on the new SAT.
Command of Evidence
This section is very different than anything on the SAT today, and I’m pretty sure students are going to hate it. It asks students to analyze passages and “demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources.” (Source: CollegeBoard.org) Basically, students will be asked to sift through evidence and correct passages to make them as accurate as possible.
One thing that struck me as I was reading this is that the tone of the new SAT is very close to the tone of the AP exams. Students who are serial AP takers will likely feel more comfortable on the new test than students who have never taken an AP test.
Bottom line: Students will need to work even harder to improve their ability to focus. These passages are dry and the tasks are now much more complex.
Essay Analyzing A Source
On the new SAT, the essay is now the final section and will be “optional.” I put optional in quotes because most top colleges are going to require that students take the test with the essay. Students will have 50 minutes to complete an essay in which they examine a passage and describe the “the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive elements.” (Source: CollegeBoard.org)
If this sounds familiar to some of you, the “new” assignment is one of the free response questions (FRQs) from the AP Language and Composition exam.
Bottom line: AP students are going to feel at home, while student with no AP experience will be out of their element.
Focus on Math that Matters Most & Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts
I combined these two points because they are both related to math. On the current SAT, I always tell my students that the whole test is a reading test – even the math and writing sections. This will be the case on the new SAT – perhaps even more so than before.
The math section is going to require students to have incredible dexterity with math. Based on the sample questions that College Board provides on their website here and here, they are looking for students to be able to interpret information and formulate equations, and solve multi-step problems – some more complex than others. These are complex, high-level questions.
Bottom line: Ouch. These sections will be tough.
Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies
This section seems to be the most simple and straightforward of all the sections. With only 2 questions to judge these questions types on, my analysis may be incomplete, but it appears to be focused on a student’s ability to read and interpret charts and graphs.
Bottom line: These new SAT questions are very similar to those found on the Science test of the ACT though it will not be limited to scientific questions.
Founding Documents and Great Global Conversations
The loftiest section in terms of the goals College Board is setting. College Board is attempting to “inspire a close reading of these rich, meaningful, often profound texts, not only as a way to develop valuable college and career readiness skills but also as an opportunity to reflect on and deeply engage with issues and concerns central to informed citizenship.” (Source: CollegeBoard.org)
Bottom line: This seems very similar to the current SAT reading test, though the source material is more limited in scope.
Start Preparing for the New SAT Today
I cannot stress enough the need for students to improve their reading skills and ability to focus for long periods of time, even on really boring content.
One drill that students can do today to help them get prepared for the new SAT is to turn off their cell phones for 1 hour and use that quiet time to dive deep on a dense text. Classical novels or more modern texts on serious subjects will help students the most.
Students should start exercising their ability to focus and their reading skills because they will benefit them not only on the new SAT but in life beyond the test as well.