You have probably heard that the College Board recently redesigned the SAT. The redesigned tests debuted with the PSAT in October 2015 and the SAT in March 2016. The last administration of the old version of the SAT was in January 2016.
The College Board has released one full-length practice PSAT and four full-length practice SATs in the new format. As you know, at Pinnacle Prep we are very careful not to draw broad conclusions from PR statements or small groups of sample questions, so seeing a group of complete tests finally gave us the chance to see questions in context and get a sense of the frequency of various question types.
Here are some salient observations we have made of the released practice tests. You’ll find that, while on the surface the new SAT may appear to have some dramatic differences from the old version, when you look more closely at the content, it’s not as different as it might first seem. Our materials, techniques, and tutors have made a smooth transition to the new test, and we continue to help our students do the same.
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
The old Critical Reading and Writing sections have been combined into a new section called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW). This new section is divided into two parts: (1) Reading and (2) Writing and Language. In our analysis, the Reading portion is the least-changed part of the test. Questions are worded similarly to those on the old SAT. As before, students will need to identify the meaning of words in context and summarize or interpret information from the passages. Students should continue to focus on the structure and main ideas of the passages. We find that most, if not all, of Pinnacle Prep’s tactics and strategies for the old SAT and ACT Reading sections continue to be helpful, effective, and efficient on this section.
The biggest change in Reading is the addition of questions that ask you to cite evidence: “Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?” These questions represent a tremendous opportunity for our students, as we have devised techniques that will help students take advantage of this new format.
The new Writing and Language portion of the ERW section appears to be quite similar to the ACT English section in format and to both the ACT English and SAT Writing sections in content. Relative to both the ACT and the old SAT, there is a little more emphasis on word choice, particularly an interesting focus on homophones, colloquial vs. formal language, and more effective vs. less effective language. But Pinnacle Prep’s overall approach, as well as many of our most useful techniques that have helped our students see significant improvement on these sections over the years, continues to be highly effective. The new content is easily addressed by our tried and true overall approach.
The Math on the new SAT is divided into two sections: (1) No Calculator and (2) Calculator. The mix of questions emphasizes algebra much more than the old SAT did, and there are many fewer geometry questions. As with the ERW sections, in the new Math sections, Pinnacle Prep’s established math techniques continue to be especially helpful. In fact, some of our techniques can be used even more easily and efficiently on some of the questions on the new SAT.
The new SAT does add some topics that were not on the old SAT, but many of them were already on the ACT, so our proprietary manuals already cover much of that material. And of course, we have throughly revised and updated our materials to ensure that they continue to be comprehensive. We are confident that our students will be able to achieve even more improvement on the new Math sections than they did on the old.
The underlying content of the Redesigned SAT is remarkably similar to that of the old SAT. Students will continue to be tested in areas such as grammar, reading comprehension, and algebra. There are a few noticeable differences – more charts and graphs in all sections, for example – and, as we mentioned above, we have updated our materials to ensure that they are comprehensive.
We have always sought to help our students develop strong academic skills, a toolkit of test-taking techniques, and confidence, as these are key components of a great performance on test day. Our students learn that they have the ability to work hard, prepare themselves, and perform well – to truly raise their performance to the next level.
But the ultimate takeaway for parents and students is that there is no need for stress about this new test. Much of the content of the old tests is still there, and what’s new is manageable. If you are feeling anxious about the new SAT, feel free to call us – it’s what we’re here for! We’re always happy to talk about these topics with you.
For more information on the Redesigned SAT, please visit the College Board’s website: collegereadiness.collegeboard.org.
Pinnacle Prep’s students’ average increase on the SAT is over 360 points and has steadily risen year after year; we are consistently at the very top of our industry. Past students tell us that the skills they honed with us have stayed with them and helped them in their college years and beyond. We are proud of our students’ truly impressive accomplishments. We look forward to continuing that tradition with our current and future students on current and future iterations of standardized tests.