The new SAT is no longer new to us as we have been teaching the strategies relative to the new exam since June of last year. That said, I would like to share with you what we have learned in training our students to confidently approach the new SAT:

  1. Our students don’t feel as pressed to finish the test as they did on the prior SAT. I attribute this to three reasons:
  • The College Board is allowing more time per passage. (This is relative to the ACT as well.)
  • There are now only 4 choices to select from rather than 5 – less reading per question.
  • Since there is no penalty for a wrong answer, students can move through the test quicker.
  1. The way the questions are phrased is more direct:
  • The questions on the reading are slightly less nuanced than on on prior SAT. This means it’s easier for students to read and understand what the question is asking.
  • How grammar and usage are tested – writing/language section – is  less confusing for most students then it was on the prior SAT. (This section is almost identical to the English section of the ACT; however, the rhetoric question seems to be more concisely stated on the SAT.)
  1. Students can actually miss more questions and get a higher score than on the previous SAT. On the new SAT, a student can often answer more questions incorrectly and actually get a higher score. I attribute this to the fact that there is no longer ¼ point penalty for every incorrect answer, so random guessing can now work in the student’s favor. For example, to score a 600 on the new SAT math, a student can miss 20 out of 58 questions – 65% correct – whereas on the prior SAT, he could only miss 13 out of 54 questions – 76% correct to get the same score.
  1. Teaching efficient reading skills is even more important on this incarnation of the SAT. Since 2005, when the analogies were no longer part of the SAT, teaching students how to improve their reading efficiency – speed and comprehension – became an integral part of our training. Now with the sentence completions gone, it’s that much more important. These reading skills are what is mandatory for gaining more accuracy and maintaining proper pacing on the reading passages:
  • Develop a reading range between 300 – 1000 wpm. This range is narrowed for the exam: 300-600 wpm. (Reading speed is relative to purpose and content.)
  • Learn how to ‘preview’ to find the point/thesis of the passage. Knowing the point of a passage is essential to CONFIDENTLY working through the questions as most of the questions are either directly or indirectly related to the point.
  • Once students have worked with ‘controlled’ reading drills to improve their reading efficiency, they are then assigned novel and/or non-fiction reading to affirm the skills learned.
  • “OMG, I have to read for 65 minutes!” Most students who have not been trained to improve their reading speed and comprehension, have felt intimidated looking at the first section of the SAT titled: Reading Test, 65 minutes, 52 Questions. Not the case with students who learn how to be efficient readers. BTW, the math questions tend to be wordier, so stronger reading skills are demanded there as well.
  • BONUS: Many of our students improve their overall study skills and grades in school since they have become more confident readers.
  1. Fatigue will always factor into the new SAT MATH. Because the new SAT tests Math in sections 3 (No-Calculator) and 4  (Calculator Allowed), all test takers will be taking this part of the test after having already done two the 65 minutes reading section and the 35 minute writing/language section. DO NOT take this for granted!  Every student considering the new SAT will have to be prepared to keep their energy up if they expect to excel at the Math sections.  If you are a student or the parent of a student who is prone to test fatigue, make sure you take steps to mitigate the exhaustion that potentially comes with taking a test. Here’s what we recommend:
  2. Don’t Delay, Make a Khan Academy Account Now! When the College Board decided to revise the new SAT, they turned to the not-for-profit Khan Academy to help them develop the test. The website khanacademy.org is an excellent asset for students who are seeking to reinforce, review and refine specific math skills.  I highly encourage any student, regardless of whether or not they intend to take the new SAT,  to make use of this free and immensely useful resource.  A little  practice every day can go a long way to improving you or your child’s test scores and (much more importantly!) comprehension of Mathematics as a whole!

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