Any high school students who plan to take the new SAT in 2016 or later will sit down for a redesigned exam. College Board chose to switch up the SAT format and contents to better test the skills that are most useful for a college curriculum, but not every student has prepared for the new type of exam. There are some major differences in the new SAT that students should consider.
New SAT 2016 | Changes in Exam Format
On the old SAT, students answered questions on math and critical reading topics, and they wrote a short essay. For the new SAT, the essay is optional. Now students can take a three hour exam without the essay, or a four hour exam including the fifty minute essay. The exam will be scored out of 1600, and students will receive an additional separate essay if they choose to write the essay.
Another huge change involves the guessing penalty. The old SAT subtracted ¼ of a point for each incorrect answer. There’s no penalty on the redesigned SAT, so students should select an answer choice for every question.
Finally, the redesigned SAT can be taken on paper in a typical testing format, or electronically at a test center (similar to the GRE and GMAT). For more information on these changes, visit the redesigned SAT website.
redesigned SAT | Content Shifts
On a high level, the sections covered on the new SAT 2016 have changed. Instead of writing, reading, and math questions, the new SAT covers math and evidence-based reading and writing questions. The required essay, which used to take half an hour and asked students to respond to a prompt, now asks students to evaluate a given argument.
These broad changes can seem confusing, but the main takeaway is that the College Board wants the material to reflect content students might see in college, instead of testing students on obscure vocabulary or confusing written passages.
The evidence-based reading and writing section combines elements of the critical reading and writing sections from the old exam. The reading passages will come from different areas of literature, as well as social science fields, and one passage will come from a significant work in American history. In addition to typical critical reading questions, students will need to select key sentences from the text to support answer choices. Thankfully, there will not be a long series of questions on obscure vocabulary. Instead, the questions will test vocabulary words used in college courses, which students will see often after high school.
The new math section will focus on fewer areas. Instead of testing students on everything from geometry to algebra to tricky word problems and beyond, the new math section covers three areas: ratios, percents, proportions; linear equations and functions; and complex equations. There will be some math sections where students can use a calculator, as well as questions where no calculator is permitted.
Ideally, these changes in the new SAT (2016) will cover material that is more relevant for students preparing for college. The revised math topics will help students study a smaller number of topics, and the optional essay will allow students to play up their writing strengths, or skip the essay to focus on the main test content.
If you prefer a visual representation of what the changes will bring, check out this cool infographic by LAtutors:
Will the new sat 2016 be a harder test?
Although Business Insider has been quoted (see above infographic!) as saying the test will be "easier than ever", many educators, including us, claim the opposite. In our view, the SAT test is a harder test, with more complex questions and a greater emphasis on higher-level reading, writing, and analysis. But the news is not all negative! The new SAT test in 2016 will also be less focused on knowledge of obscure vocabulary and does not penalize students with a guessing penalty. Another plus is that the new test seems to have a gentler scoring curve, which means that making errors will not cost you as much. It appears that to do well on the new SAT 2016, students will need to prepare in similar fashion as they did for the pre-2016 test. This means they will not only have to make sure they thoroughly understand the fundamental concepts and skills tested by the redesigned SAT, but also be ready to excel in using essential techniques to improve attitude, endurance and focus. Preparing with these principles in mind will help you live up to your potential on test day.