SAT Tip of the Week: More Fun Breaking Down the March 2016 Test

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThe new SAT will be available in March 2016. The motivation behind changing the test was to offer a more accurate reflection of student’s ability and their intelligence, in addition to testing on material that is comparable to what is learned in school.

While the efficacy of this effort can be widely debated, there is no question that the new test will be remarkably different from the old one. Recently, the College Board just released four practice tests for the new SAT, and there are a couple of key differences and patterns to pick up on in order to excel moving forward.

The new test will be on a scale of 1600 points as opposed to the current test which is on a 2400 scale. Additionally, the new test removes the sentence completion aspect of the reading comprehension section. Doing this takes away the laborious task of memorizing vocabulary. Even with these changes, the new test is still extremely coachable – and focusing on a few specific areas will yield the greatest results for students looking to boost their scores on the new test.

TABLES AND GRAPHS

On the old test there were few graphs and tables for students to analyze and interpret. The new test has increased their emphasis on this skill, which means that test takers will have to be very sharp and analytical. A couple ways to improve your problem solving ability in this area is to work on analyzing tables and graphs more frequently in math and science classes. Seeing a wider variety of these types of problems and working with a more diverse problem set will allow you to sharpen your ability.

Furthermore, understanding the tricks and areas where the SAT will try to confuse you with the tables is also helpful. The way to do this is to actually get familiar with the types of questions that accompany the tables and graphs. A lot of times the graphs and tables might actually reflect a different data set than the one picture through manipulation and presentation. Similar to the note on the old test, often times figures may not be as they appear. The new test will try to confuse students in this manner as well. Practicing enough SAT problems will help students with identifying and polishing the skill of pattern recognition. This will ensure that they don’t fall prey to the traps the SAT purposely sets.

THE ESSAY

The biggest difference on the new test is the amount of time allotted to write an essay. The student gets double the amount of time (50 minutes) and also has to employ reading comprehension skills as they work with a passage to evaluate an argument. Additionally, the essay is not required by the College Board, but instead mandated by individual schools. All of this represents a significant shift from the current format. However, many of the same principles on crafting a stellar essay still apply.

For instance, the best way to score well on the actual test day is to do a lot of practice prompts. On the new essay, you can’t come in with prepared examples but you can follow a similar model and template for any essay, regardless of the prompt and passage. The key on this essay is to evaluate the author’s argument. To do that, the student should evaluate on the same criteria for any passage, regardless of subject matter. Picking a couple literary devices or other types of criteria to analyze will be extremely helpful to ensure a high essay score.

The new test is definitely different, but many of the old strategies still apply. A couple twists and shifts, and with ample preparation, any student can really excel. Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and updates on the new SAT!

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Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.