3 Things We Learned From the First New SAT (That You Should Know, Too!)

SAT Tip of the Week - FullAfter months of speculation and conversation, the first iteration of the “new SAT” was administered this past week and weekend by the College Board.   While previous administrations of the SAT have been marred by historic snowstorms and typos on testing booklets, it seems that the big news around this test is the test itself.

With a new scoring scale and updated content, the new SAT is attempting to test more college-relevant skills. Gone are obscure vocabulary and penalties for guessing incorrectly. Rather, students are seeing a much heavier focus on algebra, context-based reading questions and grammar.

We spoke with several test takers and collected anecdotal feedback from this weekend’s test and wanted to share some interesting findings and advice:

1) For students who did not register for the (optional) essay, there was an additional 20 minute experimental section, or fifth section. The purpose of the section was to pre-test new potential test questions and it will not impact test takers’ scores in any way. However, test takers also won’t receive any feedback on how they performed on this section. Students who completed the essay did not take this section.

While there was some information circulated online about the experimental section, College Board didn’t indicate when the section would be administered, if it would be a regular part of the SAT moving forward, or how many markets and test centers  delivered test forms containing the extra section.

Lesson for students: Prepare for the unexpected! While extra questions might create additional anxiety and fatigue, at the end of the day, they will not make or break a student’s score. If the section happens to be delivered before the rest of the exam, give the questions an honest attempt and think of it as a warm-up.  If College Board shifts to incorporating experimental questions into the already established sections, it still should not impact study plans or test day strategy. Students are already planning on three hours of testing (and 154 questions), and in most cases, experimental questions are camouflaged well enough that they cannot be distinguished from actual questions that count.

2) Algebra counts! As advertised, algebra plays a prominent role on the new SAT, and overall, the math questions seemed to reflect the topics presented in the College Board’s previously released practice tests. Advanced concepts such as circles, trigonometry and imaginary numbers will be tested, but won’t make up the bulk of the questions on the test. For older, non-traditional students who are a little rusty in math, a strong refresher is probably in order.

Lesson for students: If you’ve been paying attention in high school math classes, nothing should be unfamiliar. However, pacing is going to be a challenge, especially on the non-calculator section, so practice techniques that will make you more efficient. Veritas Prep teaches students several strategies that can be leveraged to solve questions that are reasoning-based and more “SAT-focused” rather than pure math-focused. Often, you can leverage answer choices or manipulate questions to make the math much simpler (and quicker).  Above all, be careful not to fall back onto school-oriented math strategies just because they’re familiar – they might get you the right answer, but you may be wasting time that could be spent on the tougher math questions.

3) Use evidence and context to your advantage (on the verbal!) While the new test has eliminated obscure vocabulary, the College Board has introduced new questions that ask you to find evidence to support answers. The good news is that you’re rewarded for knowing the answer as well as  finding the evidence because these questions comes in pairs (so two points for the price of one)!

Lesson for students: If you don’t love the topics, it may be a struggle. Passages are a little longer, and there are 10-11 questions per passage so you don’t have the luxury of being able to skip a passage and hope for something more interesting on the next page.  However, pacing on the reading passages seems to be less of an issue on the new test since students can gain some momentum by focusing on one topic (and passage) rather than having to switch gears (and passages) more frequently. This should also help with college thinking as you’ll often have more time to do a deeper dive into one single topic.

While the new test likely still has some kinks to work out, it seems that the experimental section was the biggest surprise of the weekend. And if the biggest surprise was one that didn’t technically count, then that’s probably better than anything Mother Nature (or a rogue printer) could throw at students.

At Veritas Prep, we remain committed to ensuring our students are well prepared for anything the SAT might present.  We encourage you to learn more at a free online seminar soon! And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Joanna Graham