Understanding the New SAT - Learning Lab

Understanding the New SAT

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If you have a child who is currently a high school student, you may be aware that the SAT test has recently been overhauled. Because the ACT and SAT are such high-stakes tests — a high score can not only secure a student a spot at their college of choice, but can also lead to more scholarship offers — they can create a lot of anxiety for high school students and their families. So major changes to one of these tests can understandably increase anxiety. Understanding the new SAT is made easy at Learning Lab!

What are the main changes to the SAT, and what do these changes mean for your child?

Understanding the New SAT: The Big Changes

  1. The Writing section of the test (multiple choice only) and the Critical Reading portion of the test have now been combined into a section called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. This section has two sub-tests, the Reading test, and the Writing and Language Test, and the sub-test scores will be combined and reported as one score.
    • The Reading section no longer has sentence completion or analogy vocabulary questions. All vocabulary questions now ask about the meaning of the word in the context of the passage, similar to the ACT.
    • The questions on the Writing test are now presented in longer passages, similar to the ACT. There are no longer individual sentences to be corrected, but rather corrections to be made to an entire passage.
  2. The Math section of the SAT is more curriculum-based and straightforward than it used to be. On the old SAT, the more difficult problems used to feel like puzzles, although they didn’t cover material beyond Algebra II. Now, the problems should feel more similar to problems students would encounter in school.
    • Math problems are now drawn from three areas: Problem Solving and Data Analysis (this section has some similarities with the data-driven ACT science passages), Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math (like the ACT, the SAT will now have some trigonometry).
    • While students will still be allowed to use a calculator on most of the math test, there is now a section where students will NOT be allowed to use a calculator.
    • The Math section still includes some “grid-ins” where students must produce their own answers and there are no answer choices, and there will still be a formula reference page provided to students for the Math section.
  3. The SAT Essay is no longer required: it is now optional, like on the ACT.
    • The time limit for the essay has been doubled, from 25 to 50 minutes.
    • Students are now required to read a text and analyze it rather than just take a position on a writing prompt.
    • When deciding whether to sign your child up for the essay, check with individual colleges and universities to see if they require it.
  4. Scoring Changes:
    • Scores are now out of 1600 rather than 2400. Students will receive a score of between 200-800 on Math and between 200-800 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, for a total of 400-1600 on the whole test.
    • Essay results are reported separately, and will not impact the overall score.
    • There is now no additional penalty for an incorrect answer. Just like on the ACT, now a wrong answer and a blank answer are treated the same way, so students should put down an answer for every question.

Understanding the New SAT: What Do These Changes Mean for My Student?

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re on to something: almost all of the changes to the SAT make the test more similar to the ACT than ever before. This means that if students wish to take both exams and plan to do some test preparation, the prep they do for either test will help with both tests.

In the past, school counselors would often recommend that students take both tests to see which one they prefer. Students taking the SAT this year are, more or less, guinea pigs for the new test, as there are sure to be kinks to work out since the test has changed so dramatically. Remember, the ACT and SAT are viewed equally by colleges and universities, and now they are also very similar tests, so if your child would rather skip the SAT altogether while it’s in transition and go with the more familiar ACT, there is no reason they have to take both.

Understanding the New SAT: Schedule Your Student’s SAT Prep Now

For more information about SAT Prep, contact one of our two Learning Lab locations, or fill out the form below!

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Brentwood, TN 37027


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Nashville, TN 37212