SAT tips for the NEW format

Last week I talked about the OLD format SAT, but this week I want to talk about how the SAT will be changing starting with the March date.  The big changes include now that the essay section will be optional and that you will not be penalized for questions that are wrong like you were in the old format SAT as well as having only 4 choices to pick from instead of 5.  Another major change is that the SAT questions are now going to be more aligned with the ACT:  there will be less “trick” questions but the questions will require more knowledge to solve them; the reading section will use vocabulary in context and not expect you to memorize archine words; the reading passages will not be mostly based on literature that was written hundreds of years ago but will now include history and science texts.  Before I go too far off target, let’s look at each section individually.

  1. Reading Section
    The reading section is now combined with the Writing and Language section for a total of 800 point, however, I would like to deal with them in this blog separately as you would study for each differently. The reading is now all passage based, no more sentence completion.  They also have less emphasis on old literature passages.  Each SAT will have 1 passage from US/World Literature, 2 passages from History/Social Studies articles, and 2 passages from Science articles. The students will now have to interpret data from graphs and/or the text itself.  They will also have many questions that will have a follow-up question next where they have to choose WHY they choose the previous answer.  This tactic may help many students because it can help them rethink the question BUT I’m sure that the College Board writers will also put in trick answers to make the students think of a reason that isn’t correct and thus now the student will get 2 questions wrong.So how can you really study for these tests besides just doing study questions?  Since the College Board is using current writings that you have to interpret, one of the best ways is to read newspapers that are often regarded as well-written such as the New York Times. I suggest you do this activity as a family – pick different articles then talk about it at dinner or while in the car.  Make a habit of it.  Not only will this activity strengthen both your and your child’s understanding of current affairs as well as increase their ability to do well on the new SAT, it will bring you together more as a family.
  2. Writing and Language Section
    As I stated before, this section is now combined with the Reading section and both are worth 800 combined.   There are no more questions that are based on stand-alone sentences.  Now all the questions are passage based.  In the example from the College Board to the left, you’ll see that for the first 3 questions the students can easily just look at those sentences individually, however for question 4 they would have to read all the passage before it to figure out the correct word. For the final question, students will have to read the whole passage in order to understand the flow and to figure out what is best.To study, students should still study grammar rules but now the SAT will be using common rules instead of obscure ones.  The tests will focus more on writing STYLE and creating documents that make sense, which is best learned by having a good proof reader work with your child to explain WHY and HOW to create better documents themselves.
  3. Essay section
    This section is optional now and is by itself worth 800 points.  Students can score from 2-8 from each person who reads the section.  Previously, students had to read a prompt and write a persuasive essay using imaginary examples (or real ones if they could think of them).  However, now students will read a passage and write an essay explaining how the author persuaded THEM.  The essay should still be written in the 5 paragraph format but now they have to use exact examples from the essay itself.  The best way to practice is just to write as much as you can.  Practice tests are a good way to go over it, then to multi-task, have someone who is good with writing proof read it going over ways to make it better.  This exercise will also strengthen your child’s skills for the writing and language section.
  4. Math Section
    The Math Section is the section that has changed the least of all.  However, the biggest change is that where geometry questions could be up to 40% of the test, they are now down to 10%.  There is little to no abstract logic questions but there are a few (up to 5%) questions of Trigonometry.  There will be one section that bans a calculator, but the questions there wouldn’t be able to be solved using a calculator anyway so that’s not a big deal.  The questions will be harder, but will be more straightforward and will be more real-life situations like the two examples below.
    The best way to practice for this test is to take a practice test and determine what is your weak point and do as many problems as you can with a person who can explain what you did wrong so you can understand.  Algebra is strongly emphasized on this new test so you can spend your time working on those types of problems if math isn’t your strong point.  If you are good in Algebra, spend your time on Geometry and Trig as that will just make your score higher.

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