The new SAT has been the biggest story in the college admission world this year. It made its inaugural appearance on March 5, and students who took that test had some initial reactions that will be useful to their peers going forward into April and May. In general, students liked the new SAT structure better. That’s the good news. However, they also found it more challenging than expected. Why? Time.
Students needed to work harder and faster
The Reading section of the new SAT is 65 minutes...in which to complete 52 questions! Likewise, the no-calculator portion of the Math Test allots 25 minutes for 20 questions. Students found the pace of these sections grueling; some of them said that the no-calculator portion was “nearly impossible” to finish within the slated time.
Part of the time difficulty has to do with changes to the DNA of the test itself. Each section of the new SAT has been infused with a new focus on factors like examining relevant words in context, demonstrating a command of evidence, and understanding global issues. The word problems in the Math section contain more information, period. The evidence-based Reading passages are incisive examinations of their subject material. Put simply, students have less time in which to analyze more data.
The essay is more closely tied to college than you know
Then there’s the essay section. This 50-minute passage has been totally redesigned to more closely imitate college assignments. Instead of generating their own arguments in response to a prompt, students will read a passage and explain how the author built his or her argument, supporting their claims with evidence from the passage. The process will require more critical thinking and clearer analysis. While it’s voluntary, and essay scoring is not folded into your 1600-point total, its absence will be noteworthy. Many of the best colleges will require students to take it.
How to deal with these challenges
So should you do to rock the New SAT? It’s simple: prepare, prepare, prepare.
Working on multiple practice tests will allow you to be more efficient when you do sit down for the New SAT. Examining your areas of academic weakness and studying up on them will give you more confidence in your analysis skills, not just in your strong sections, but throughout the test. And researching the new scoring structure will allow you to use the system to your best advantage. For instance, there is no longer a penalty (losing a quarter of a point) for incorrect answers—so guess away! It can only work in your favor.
Parts of the new SAT may be harder, but it’s entirely possible to prepare well, finish on time, and rock the test. Put in the time now, and you’ll finish in plenty of it.