Why is the SAT changing?
College Board redesigned the SAT to stay competitive in the changing academic landscape. The new SAT (what we call the rSAT) tests content that better aligns with what is being taught in school systems after the implementation of the common core standards. Also, because of the increasing popularity of the ACT, the rSAT is adapting to a testing style similar to the current ACT.
When is it changing?
The final test for the current SAT will be administered in January 2016. The first date for the new SAT (the rSAT) will be March 5th, 2016.
What has changed?
Scoring: The score is now out of 1600. The rSAT are implementing “rights-only” scoring, which means they are doing away with the -¼ deduction for every answer and there is no penalty for guessing. They are also reducing the number of answer choices from 5 down to 4.
Timing: The length of the entire test will be 3 hours (Math = 80 minutes, Reading = 65 minutes, Writing = 35 minutes), plus 50 minutes for the now optional essay. See chart below for the detailed breakdown of timing for each section.Content: The rSAT reading and writing sections have reduced emphasis on vocabulary and now favor understanding words within their context. There will be more questions on science and history incorporated into the reading, writing and math sections through charts, graphs, and data analysis. Math is now divided into two sections: with and without calculator. Both portions of the math section will include multiple choice and grid-in questions.
Content: The rSAT reading and writing sections have reduced emphasis on vocabulary and now favor understanding words within their context. There will be more questions on science and history incorporated into the reading, writing and math sections through charts, graphs, and data analysis. Math is now divided into two sections: with and without calculator. Both portions of the math section will include multiple choice and grid-in questions.
How will the new SAT be scored?
Scores on the new SAT will be from 400-1600: 800 points from math, 800 points for Reading and Writing combined, with a now optional essay separately scored. There will be subscores and cross-test scores reported as well, including analysis in history, analysis in science, subcategories of math, command of evidence, and others.
No scaled scores will be released from the first tests until May or June 2015 (meaning even if you take the test in March, you may not see your scores until May or June), and we will not know yet what a “good score” is until then. Be careful when trying to match scores on the new SAT with the current version, as they will not align in a way we can predict.
How does the new SAT compare with the ACT?
The rSAT has become much closer to the ACT in content and form for most sections, although small differences will remain. In the English and Reading sections (called the Evidence-Based Writing and Language in the rSAT), questions and passages look very similar, putting grammar and vocabulary questions in the context of a passage. There are fewer questions on the rSAT, so you won’t be as crunched for time as you are in the ACT, but the rSAT also includes charts, diagrams, tables and data analysis questions in these sections. The rSAT math section is more text-heavy than that of the ACT, but it has stepped back from the brain-teaser style of the old SAT and moved closer to the straightforward ACT style. The new SAT has no science section, but these types of questions are integrated into all other sections of the test.
Is the essay changing on the rSAT?
Yes, the rSAT essay is completely different from that of the current SAT. It requires you to read a lengthy passage, explain how the author builds an argument to persuade his or her audience, and finally support your explanation with evidence from the passage. There is no agreeing or disagreeing with a thesis or writing about yourself. The essay is focused on examining an author’s rhetoric, such as use of evidence, reasoning, and persuasion. You will now have 50 minutes to complete the essay. Note that, although it is now optional, some colleges still require the essay as part of the test. Make sure to check with the schools you are applying to and understand their requirements.
How is the math section changing?
The math test is now divided into two sections: with and without calculator. Both portions will include multiple choice and grid in questions. New topics include:
- arithmetic on polynomials
- unit conversions
- range and standard deviation of data
- interpreting scatter plots
- linear vs. exponential growth
- conditional probability
- justifying conclusions and evaluating data collection methods
- radian measure
- equations of circles
- trigonometric functions applied to right triangles and complementary angles
- trigonometric functions with radian measure
How is science tested on the rSAT?
There is no separate science section; however, students’ performance in data analysis will be reported through cross-section scores. In the reading, writing, and math sections for the rSAT, students will find passages and questions accompanied by informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts. No prior knowledge of science topics is required, but students should know how to read these figures and draw conclusions from them.
Now that there are 3 possible college admissions tests, which one should I take?
The class of 2016 should only consider the current SAT or ACT because testing needs to be completed by December or January for application.
The class of 2017 should make informed decisions about which test to take. Students should take the test that gives them the best chance of success and works with their schedule. If you have any questions about the pros and cons of taking each test, we can help! Call us and we can work through your options.
The class of 2018 and beyond should only consider the rSAT or the ACT, as it is too early for them to take the current SAT before it changes and have the score be relevant for college admissions.
My school says that everyone should take the ACT. Should I?
If your school is requiring this, we recommend you go along with it. However, you should also figure out whether the rSAT or SAT could be right for you, and take that test as well if it turns out to be a better fit.
If it is not required by your school, you should assess which test is right for you and go from there.