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The New SAT: What to Expect in Each Section

As you might already know, if you are planning to write the SAT after February 2016, you’ll be looking at a brand-new test. The new SAT has been designed to focus more on applicable knowledge. The College Board (the creators of the SAT) states that the new SAT will test students on skills they learn in high school, that are critical in university and college. Arguably, the most important change is that there will no longer be a penalty for guessing!

The new SAT has five different components:

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section:

The Reading Test (65 minutes; 52 multiple choice questions based on five passages)

The College Board states that the new Reading Test is “not about how well you memorize facts and definitions,” which is great news for you!  Instead you will be asked to determine the definition of a widely-used word based on its context in a sentence.

During this test you will read five passages that may or may not have accompanying graphs, tables or charts, and answer questions and make inferences about what you’ve read. Keep in mind that you will definitely see a US founding document or a passage about the “global conversation” the documents started.

The Writing and Language Test (35 minutes; 44 multiple choice questions)

For this test, you will be required to identify and solve errors and weaknesses in passages. In some questions you just need to look at a single sentence, but for other questions you’ll need to improve upon how the author has presented the information. You will read a variety of passages that will either be arguments or nonfiction narratives that cover a range of topics.

The Math Test (80 minutes; 58 multiple choice questions)

For this part of the test the College Board is placing an “emphasis on problem solving, modeling, using tools strategically, and using algebraic structure.” Something new to note is that there will be two sections of the math test, one that allows the use of a calculator and one that does not. The areas being tested are those that are most widely found in careers and in university or college: algebra, problem solving, data analysis, complex equations, geometry, and trigonometry.

The SAT Essay (50 minutes)

This is now optional. Some universities and colleges will still require the essay, so it’s advised that you know what’s required for your school of choice! Another important change is that you will now need to read a passage, analyze it, formulate an argument about it, and use evidence from the text to support your answer. Below is the writing prompt you will see when you write the test.

As you read the passage below, consider how [the author] uses

  • evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
  • reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
  • stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Write an essay in which you explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience that [author’s claim]. In your essay, analyze how [the author] uses one or more of the features listed above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of [his/her] argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how the author builds an argument to persuade [his/her] audience.

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of the newly designed SAT? Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space offers one-to-one lessons with Learning Specialists who can help. 

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