Guide to the New SAT Changes for Teens

Fill in the bubble test

Headlines declare that the new SAT is designed more fairly, smarter and better than ever. The changes are set to affect the students taking the SAT in the spring of 2016. However, there are still a lot of questions.

Eight Key Changes

According to the College Board, who is the official publisher of the SAT test, there are eight key changes that will help the test do a better job of measuring real-world skills.

Relevant Words

Gone will be the days where you need to know words like beleaguer and commodious - words that you likely will never use anywhere else except for on your SAT test. The new SAT is designed to test knowledge of words, in common context, that students will use throughout their lives.

One example, from the SAT question drafts, asks students to analyze the word, 'intense,' in the context of a paragraph.

Using Evidence in Text

In line with the Common Core, students will be asked on the reading and writing portions of the test to select quotes to help support a particular viewpoint. For example, the College Board notes that for every passage students are asked to read, they will be asked to choose one quote that supports the answer they've chosen.

Optional Essay

One change that perhaps has students thrilled is that the essay portion of the new SAT will be optional. However, also noteworthy is that the essay prompt will be shared in advance and remain consistent.

In the essay prompt, the new SAT will ask students to analyze how an author builds his argument, thus furthering the goal of students using evidence in text. Although the essay prompt will be shared in advance, the source material will not be shared, and will not remain consistent. The College Board feels that this type of writing is more reflective of college-level assignments.

Real World Math

The College Board notes that the new math section will focus on three basic areas that include problem-solving and data analysis, algebra and concepts needed to succeed in advanced math. Problems will include:

  • Using ratios
  • Finding percentages and using proportional reasoning to solve problems
  • Mastery of linear equations and systems
  • Familiarity with more complex equations

Reading in the Real World

The redesigned SAT is supposed to focus on problems that students will encounter both in their careers and in college. For example, the questions in the reading and optional writing section will feature charts, graphs and passages like one students are likely to encounter in science social science other majors and careers.

Likewise the math students will be presented with the scenario and asked several questions about it, requiring that they analyze the problem think it through and model it mathematically.

Analyzing Science and History

Students will now be presented with texts that focus on science or history and be asked to analyze information from informational graphics or synthesize information from problems that are presented. The focus will be on the analytical process, as opposed to memorizing information about science and history.

Founding Documents and the Global Conversation

Students taking the redesigned SAT will have to answer questions from passages that are either from the founding documents (i.e. The Declaration of Independence, for example) or are from a text from the global conversation. One example of a passage used includes a speech given by a senator in 1974 on when it is appropriate to consider impeaching a president.

No Penalty for Guessing

A huge change in the scoring for the SAT is that students will no longer be penalized for a wrong answer - only right answers will be scored. The College Board hopes that this will encourage students to give the best answer they have to all the problems presented on the test.

Minor Changes

In addition to the eight major changes, the College Board's side-by-side comparison chart notes a couple of minor changes as well:

  • Scores will be given based on a total of 1600 instead of 2400.
  • The test will be available in both digital and paper format.

How to Prep for the New SAT

While it's great to understand how the SAT is changing, students really need to know how to prepare themselves for this test.

Take a Rigorous Course Load

According to the College Board, the best way to be prepared for the SAT test is to engage in classes that are rigorous. Since the redesigned test emphasizes the ability to analyze data and passages, it's essential that students take the most rigorous courses available to them. If all goes according to plan, the new SAT is not something you'll be able to study for by cramming a couple weeks before.

Practice Tests

While not a change to the test itself, another big change that the College Board has introduced is the availability of free test prep materials through Kahn Academy. The hope is that by providing test prep materials free-of-charge, the College Board will bridge the gap for students who cannot afford expensive test prep materials and courses. Test prep materials should be available by the spring of 2015.

Read, Read, and Read Some More

Experts say that since analytical reading plays such a crucial role in the new SAT, it's important that you read all types of challenging texts, including nonfiction texts like newspapers and articles. There won't be any fill-in-the-blank answers where you can kind of guess what they are asking for. Instead, you'll be asked to read and analyze, making reading comprehension incredibly important for success.

Time Will Tell

Will the new and improved SAT help even the playing field and more accurately measure academic achievement? Only time will tell. However, if it is successful it will serve as a measure of more realistic skills that students actually need to enter the work force.

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Guide to the New SAT Changes for Teens