FAQ: An Inside Look at How to Do Well on the New SAT
In light of the recent changes to the SAT, we sat down with the CollegeVine SAT prep team to discuss the new SAT and how the changes will affect you.
Q: When will I have to deal with the new SAT format?
A: The first set of SATs with the new format will not release until Spring 2016, so the last SAT with the current format will be offered in December 2015.
Q: Why didn’t they time it so that the first SAT with the new format was in October?
A: Only the College Board knows exactly why they do what they do. However, if you think about it, since most kids take the test as juniors or first-semester seniors, they probably did it to ensure that everyone applying to college in fall of 2015 is taking the same test when applying to college.
Q: Will the new test be harder?
A: Not across the board. Some people will find it more difficult, some people will find it easier. The essay will likely be more difficult and require a better grasp of literary devices and writing techniques, while students with a good understanding of data analysis and other basic forms of analytic thinking will find the Math and “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” sections easier.
Q: So how do you tackle the new essay?
A: We’ll have a more concrete answer when the question is first released. The key change is that the essay is now going to be an extension of what the critical reading passages are today. Essentially, you’re going to have to be able to understand the passages like you do now, but instead of just answering questions, you’re going to have to write out your answer. Another key element is that to get a high score, you’re going to have to write really well. Since everyone has the same source material or content, what will determine your score is how well you actually implement that content with your writing abilities. Right now the essay is a test of both your ability to generate your own content and your ability to write. The new essay will skew heavily towards the latter. Successful papers will likely include a higher caliber of writing, with strong grasp of literary devices, rhetorical techniques, and cohesive arguments.
Q: What about the “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” section?
A: You’re still going to have to have many of the same critical reading skills and know a lot of the same grammatical rules. The difference is likely to be much more about the type of content covered (less literature and more science and social studies) than about the types of questions (though there are no more sentence completions). Like on the ACT science section, you actually won’t have to be a rocket scientist, microbiologist, or top-notch historian to do well. As long as you have a strong grasp of how to comprehend and analyze text (like you have to be able to in the current critical reading section), you will be fine.
Q: And how about Math?
A: The math section is going to test fewer skills, but it will test them more in-depth. The key things for you to know that you don’t need for the current SAT are how to analyze data, how to read charts, and generally how to to work with data-sets. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with equations of a line (point slope and slope intercept), quadratic equations, and how to solve systems of equations.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to students about the new SAT, what would it be?
A: The most important skill you can have for the new SAT is the ability to analyze – the ability to draw your own conclusions from text or data. For example, whenever you read a newspaper or magazine article, in the back of your mind try to think about how the author persuades you of his or her opinion. Also make sure to think about the information or data presented in the text and make your own conclusions about them.
The CollegeVine SAT team is already hard at work building a new curriculum to help you with the new SAT.