Test Prep and the College Board's New SAT Exam | Quantum Prep

Test Prep and the College Board’s New SAT Exam

Last Updated on August 27, 2020
Solomon Berman

The New SAT Test is Almost Here: What Do You Need to Know to Prepare?
According to the College Board, the latest version of the SAT exam is going to be much different than the current exam. What does this mean for our Boston area high school students preparing for their SAT exams?

If you are taking the SAT exam in 2016 or beyond, your SAT test preparation will need to be a little different than the high school students who took the test before you.

In order to prepare for this new test, it’s important to know not only what the changes are, but also why the changes are being made and what you need to do to be successful with your own Test Prep.

  • What motivated the changes?
  • What’s the College Board looking for now?
  • What will it take to prepare for the new SAT Test?
  • How can you optimize your score?

One of the major complaints about the previous version of the SAT exam was that it was full of questions irrelevant to the high school curriculum. A typical SAT Prep course meant memorizing extremely obscure vocabulary words and mathematical concepts unfamiliar to students in both high school and everyday life.

The good news is you are going to see a lot more recognizable material on the SAT test than the previous test takers did. This means that the new SAT exam will be covering more reading, writing, and math content you’ve already been exposed to in your high school classes.

The truth is, the College Board’s SAT seems to have taken its cue from the ACT Test, the other college entrance exam that recently overtook the SAT as most popular in the nation. The College Board must have scratched its head. How were they losing ground so fast? What did the ACT provide that the SAT didn’t? And why were students, parents, and high school guidance counselors flocking to the ACT exam and so wary of the College Board’s SAT model?

Here are some of the differences of which the College Board took note as they began their new SAT Exam design:

  • The ACT Test essay was optional, and many universities don’t require a writing score. A test taker eschewing the essay is saving time and, quite often, money.
  • The ACT Exam does not deduct points for incorrect answers, while the SAT Exam penalizes test takers a quarter point for selecting the wrong answer.
    • This is why identifying “tricks” and distractors is greatly emphasized in current SAT prep courses.
  • Perhaps the biggest disparity: The ACT Test content was curriculum-related, covering familiar ground for test takers: reading, math, English, and science.

One of the main complaints about the SAT has been addressed in this new model, according to statements from the College Board President and CEO David Coleman. According to Coleman, the old test lacked genuine information analysis and questions that reflected test takers’ reasoning skills and ability to cite evidence when selecting an answer or making a case.

“We are not interested in students just picking an answer, but justifying their answers,” Colman explained. The new SAT is about understanding over procedure. Get ready to practice not only what the correct answer is, but also how and why.

So, high school class of 2017, here is some of what you need to know for your Spring 2016 SAT Test preparation:

  • The new SAT scoring scale will revert back to 1600 from 2400.
  • The SAT essay will no longer be a requirement. It will be optional and scored separately from the rest of the exam. The new essay will ask the test taker to analyze a given passage and supply evidence for arguments, response, and criticism.
  • Points will not be deducted for wrong answers.
  • Plan to see familiar content from your classroom lessons and be ready to scrutinize it and explain yourself.

Minus the essay, that leaves the required portions of the SAT as critical reading, writing, and math. The College Board’s adjustments are as follows:

SAT Math Test Changes

  • 90% of the SAT math section will consist of three subjects: Problem-Solving and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math.
    • Continuing with the new SAT theme of real-life analytics, the bulk of these questions will focus on linear equations, percentages, ratios, proportions, functions, and other mathematical reasoning concepts.
  • 15% of the SAT math section will have a Social Studies theme.
  • 15% of the SAT math section will have a Hard Science theme.
  • One 55-minute portion will permit the use of calculators.
    • Part of the challenge of the 55-minute portion will be to identify when calculator use is prudent and when it is a hindrance; some logic and reasoning math questions will be solved faster without one.
  • One 25-minute portion will prohibit calculators.
  • New multi-part problem sets will ask more than one question on the same set of circumstances.
  • Only 10% of the questions will contain additional math topics, and they will be largely regarding Plane Geometry.
  • The new SAT math is much more diverse and will assess forty-one identifiable skills.

SAT Critical Reading/Writing Test Changes

  • Critical Reading passages on the new SAT exam will contain 80% more nonfiction than fiction
  • There will be two science passages, two history and social studies passages and one literature passage.
  • SAT Exam writing will cover three styles of prose: argument, explanatory, and narrative nonfiction
  • Test takers will be placed in the position of editor of four anonymous passages with 44 multiple choice questions.
  • The New SAT vocabulary words will be “high utility,” meaning they’re used commonly in everyday life. Expect to identify meaning using context, and not simply memorization of definition.
  • SAT Critical Reading passages will now include graphics.

This is all good news for students who prepare by focusing on understanding material. It is bad news for students who work on autopilot without genuine comprehension.

For example, the word abstract may be used in a sentence on the SAT. Abstract is a word you’ve likely heard and used in conversation. But it has several meanings. It could be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective. Contextual reasoning will direct you to the correct answer, not simply knowing the word’s definition.

Remember you’ll be practicing reasoning skills and citing evidence. Perhaps a person in a new country needs to exchange currency, then make calculations with that currency, count change, figure out a tip. Ratios, percentages, and other formulas will need to be utilized in different situations within the multi-part, real life problem. It requires knowing not simply knowing a formula, but how and why it is being applied.

This new SAT Exam mean a radical shift for most students and most SAT Prep organizations. Luckily, Quantum Prep is not only prepared for these changes, but they in fact already play directly into the design of our core program.

Quantum Prep is unique in that it is already a goal-oriented program that engages students to develop a deeper understanding and create a real connection with the subject material in ways only real teachers can deliver.

So, take a deep breath and realize the new SAT exam changes were designed to play towards students’ strengths, not reveal their weaknesses. Higher SAT scores will now go to students who can apply optimal reasoning skills not those most adept at rote memorization. And lastly, Quantum Prep is not only ready, willing and able to help our Boston area students to prepare for the new SAT Exam, but able to teach them the skills to give them the confidence to tackle all the academic obstacles that may lie ahead.

Make sure to read “Three Signs of Test Prep Services that Deliver” for important information about how to choose the right ACT or SAT Test Prep service.

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Solomon Berman is the Founder and Lead Teacher of Quantum Prep. Born in Boston, MA, he is a native and longtime resident of the Merrimack Valley area.Now, with over a decade of combined teaching experience at both Boston inner-city schools and Boston University, Solomon actively teaches chemistry, physics, and mathematics at the high school, college, and post baccalaureate levels.Solomon also focuses his attention on developing the most innovative and effective catalog of pedagogical techniques for STEM disciplines, helping students become powerful STEM learners.Solomon holds degrees from Bates College (Bachelor of Science, Chemistry and Music), Boston University (Masters of Arts Degree in Science Education, Masters of Arts Degree in Theoretical Chemistry), a Professional Development Certification from Harvard University, and has studied at Boston College as a visiting scholar.

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