The New SAT: 6 Key Concepts
In 2016, the SAT will achieve two major milestones: It will celebrate its 90th anniversary and a new version of the exam will be released. The impending release has generated far more buzz and speculation, so let’s take a look at the new SAT based on what is known today.
The College Board describes the redesigned SAT as “the anchor of a system of assessments that are aligned across a continuum of knowledge and skills.” The exam focuses on evidence-based reading and writing (critical reading, writing and language) and math.
All reading, writing and language sections are multiple choice. Roughly 80% of the math questions are multiple choice but about 20% require you to produce a numeric answer and mark it as a “grid-in” (i.e., write the answer in the designated boxes and fill in the corresponding bubbles). The required sections take 3 hours. The essay portion of the exam is still optional, lasts for 50 minutes and involves writing a cohesive essay based on a document provided during the exam.
The new SAT aligns with the Common Core curriculum and is structured to test the primary knowledge and skill areas from multiple directions. The strategy hinges on six key concepts:
- Analysis. The reading, writing and language sections present passages from different disciplines (literature, science, social studies, etc.), which you analyze by focusing on issues such as topic, content, organization and effectiveness. In the math sections, you analyze data to solve specific problems.
- Context. This word appears throughout the test descriptions and for many students, this is a very good thing. The dreaded vocabulary section, for example, has been replaced by an emphasis on understanding and interpreting relevant vocabulary used in context. Likewise, select math problems are anchored to real-world contexts.
- Evidence. You analyze, interpret and clarify facts and examples presented in select passages to demonstrate evidence-based reading and writing skills.
- Extended thinking. In the math portion, you solve select multistep problems to demonstrate an ability to connect concepts and results throughout a process.
- Problem solving. In the reading, writing and language sections, you analyze, interpret and correct written content and data presented in graphs, tables and charts. In the math sections, you use data and math skills to solve problems.
- Reasoning. This concept appears in two ways: In some sections, you analyze the logic or rationale presented in select passages. In others, you use reasoning skills to connect claims with supporting facts.
There are other factors to keep in mind. Wrong answers are no longer penalized and only correct answers are scored. The new scale tops out at 1600 points rather than 2400, and for the first time, every test in the SAT lineup (PSAT 8-9, PSAT 10, PSAT/NMSQT and SAT) will be scored on the same scale. Several aspects of the redesigned exam are subject to further research, so additional refinements may occur.
If you’ll be taking the new SAT in 2016, remember: The College Board and Khan Academy are launching a comprehensive SAT preparation and practice program in May 2015, and the entire program is free.