The first two parts of this series aimed to introduce you to the Reading and Writing/Language sections of the rSAT. As students and schools across the country gear up for the new SAT, everyone is wondering what, exactly, to expect. For students, including those familiar with the old SAT or the ACT, the best way to begin preparing for the new-look SAT will be to read about the changes and then spend some time working through the practice tests that have been released. At this point, great information and analysis have been published by many sources. This three-part series is not designed to review or summarize all of the available content—much of which includes great detail and excellent insights—but rather to present some of the most basic advice that we feel can be helpful to almost all students. Here, we discuss what the Math section of the new, rSAT will look like:
The Math section of the new SAT will, in fact, be two complementary sections, one permitting calculators and the other not. The former emphasis on geometry is gone (geometry questions will only constitute about 5% of the test); algebra is now king, or rather, even more the king than it was before (algebra questions are now more than 60% of the test). The calculator section is dominated by long word problems, asking students to deal with a lot of information and requiring a fair amount of reading comprehension (thus minimizing the use of the calculator). The no-calculator section will generally cover more abstract ideas, often incorporating more than one concept into a single question.
One incredibly important change is that the new test will often present more information than is needed to solve a question. This fundamentally affects how students should tackle these problems. Whereas before, it was almost always optimal to start by writing down all the information from the question, students will now have to exercise more discretion in evaluating and extracting information from the question.
There is one major boon offered by these new, more complex multiple-choice questions (whether multi-concept questions or extra-information questions): since there are only four answer choices for the math sections (the handful of write-in questions on the no-calculator section aside), the answer choices often provide powerful clues as to how to break open the question, in some cases even rendering the question almost comically trivial.
Calculator and no-calculator split: Questions are separated into separate tests with different focuses.
More, longer word problems: The calculator test will be dominated by long word problems.
Data analysis: There are graphs and charts here, too, and they feel organic, in contrast to many in the other two sections.
Trigonometry: There will only be a few trigonometry question on the new test, so students dreading SOHCAHTOA won’t have too great a cause for concern.
Strategies: As mentioned above, always use all of the available clues in a question to figure out how to break it open. This means close-reading and aggressively using the answer choices as a guide. The questions can often feel like all-or-nothing propositions. The initial appearance of complexity is often belied by the clarity of the ultimate solution.
To sum it up: Read carefully! Avoiding careless mistakes is still essential for performing well on this test, and reading will be more essential than ever in minimizing those errors.