What to Expect from the New SAT

By March 2, 2016Blog

By Bara Sapir and Laila Kamaruddin

Many students and parents are nervously questioning what to expect on the new SAT. It is a different test; there is no doubt about that, in style, structure (now four parts), timing (either 3 hours 20 minutes or 3 hours 50 minutes), scoring (now back to a 1600 scale), and no penalty for guessing. Students have little to fear if they go in as prepared as can be, knowing content, test taking strategy, and having a positive mindset.

In our personal opinion, this new SAT is a better-structured test more akin to the ACT. As per the College Board website, this version “focuses more on knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as important for college and career readiness and success.” Students have 4 distinct sections, rather than going back and forth between different sections and different ways of thinking. So while the test is longer, it takes pressure off students and allows them to focus on the skills for each section. Below is a breakdown of all 4 sections, and some strategies that will promote a student’s best preparation for the new SAT, this weekend and beyond.

Essay Section: While this section is optional, it’s also recommended. If you have taken AP US History, you will find that the essay style is very similar. You need to analyze documents and develop strong arguments for them. The documents are fact based, and contain a lot of detail from which you can create several arguments. As always, pick one side of an argument and stick to it! Use as many fancy vocabulary words as you can, but use them correctly.

Note: If students do not do the Essay, they will be taking a non-graded 20-minute experimental section.

Critical Reading Section: There is a lot of heavy vocabulary in this section, so if you thought the days of vocabulary memorization for the SAT are over, you are partially wrong. You need a high command of English language and vocabulary because you will need to be able to decipher the meaning of words to best understand the reading. As per the College Board website, “Greater emphasis is on the meaning of words in extended contexts and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact.” The reading itself is now of a higher level and more complex. Be prepared to ignite your visual skills because the reading section now includes graphs and tables to decipher. Reading slow? It’s a great time to take a speed reading course, like MindFlow, so that you can focus on getting the gist of passages and not bogged down with the details. With 80% of the test answers coming from 20% of the reading material, you can borrow time by not trying to become an expert on the passages.

Writing Section: This section is still based on grammar and structure, and will test your skills at identifying errors. It’s also a reading section too, and you will be tested on the language usage in these passages. The level of reading is simpler than the Critical Reading section, but heavy laden in high-level vocabulary words. So get to upgrading your vocabulary acumen, sooner rather than later.

Math Section: The math is challenging but not impossible. Be prepared for long word problems. Know your fundamental concepts. Be prepared for more Trigonometry, Geometry, and Algebra 2 than previous tests. The first 15 questions in both math sections are basic fundamentals and concepts most students should have completed by 10th grade. Some pro-tips: know your special right angle triangles, functions, quadrants, Trig, and Geometry. If you are in Pre-Calculus, it’s a bonus, as you will be able to respond to the more difficult questions with ease. Also, the math section has more graphs and tables.   This has made the test more visual, and I must add that these questions are fast and precise. You are looking for data… with little calculation.

Bonus Pro Tip: How to stay calm while taking the SAT. Tests don’t only measure what you know; they measure how well you take tests. So be sure to check in with yourself and ways you can self regulate and feel calm, focused, and on your best game for test day. This includes sleep both nights before the test, eating a healthy dinner and breakfast, and having some techniques under your belt in case you have a panic attack. You can borrow from high performing athletes a trick they use for success: imagine yourself entering your test site calm and comfortable and let the ‘movie’ of your mind continue to reinforce how focused, calm, and safe you feel. Do this several times before test day…even the morning of the test, and it will help you get into the best test-taking mindset.

We have taken a full test and it’s not that bad- so go in there, be prepared, and good luck studying.




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Bara Sapir

About Bara Sapir

Bara Sapir, MA is an internationally recognized expert in high-performance coaching, personal empowerment and transformative test preparation. She partners with each of her students to achieve success. She is an inspirational, highly skilled, passionate expert and teacher with twenty years’ experience teaching test prep, including six years as an instructor for The Princeton Review. Click here to learn more [...]

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