5 Ways the New SAT is Actually Harder

The new SAT is going to be harder!You may have heard that College Board is redesigning the SAT for 2016. You may also have heard that they’re “dumbing it down” or making it easier. The main reason for this impression seems to be that College Board is getting rid of the Sentence Completion questions, aka the “vocab” questions. While students might think they can rejoice at not having to study long lists of vocabulary words any more, any celebration on this front would be premature. In fact, overall, the redesigned SAT will probably be harder than the current one. Here are 5 Ways the New SAT is Actually Harder.

1)      Vocab was actually your friend.

For the current SAT, the fastest and easiest way to raise your critical reading score is by studying vocab. There are about 500 frequently tested vocabulary words College Board likes to put on the SAT, and if you start a few months in advance, you can easily memorize them all (especially since you have already probably learned a lot of them in school, anyway). Painful as it might be for some students, memorizing vocabulary words is way easier than improving your reading fluency and comprehension, which requires you to read challenging literature regularly for years.

2)      Vocab is still on the test.

Many students think that vocabulary is only tested on the fill-in-the-blank style Sentence Completion questions, but if you look closely at the SAT, you will realize that the passages, questions, and answer choices for the passage-based questions are often full of SAT vocab words. The SAT will still test vocabulary – it will just be part of the passage based questions. If a passage is full of hard vocab words you don’t know, how well will you understand what it’s trying to say? Probably not very well. Thus, you are still going to need to study vocab in order to get a top score on the SAT.

3)      The reading section is now 100% long passages.

On the current SAT, the hardest questions (the ones most frequently missed by test takers) are Long Passage questions. Guess what? The new SAT reading test is 100% long passages. The writing portion of the verbal section test will also be 100% passage-based as well.

4)      The passages will probably be harder.

On the current SAT, College Board mainly uses passages written in the generic, glossy style of magazines like National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine, peppered with occasional high-dollar vocab words but ultimately written to be easily comprehended. They are on general interest intellectual topics and meant to appeal and be readily understandable to the adult reading public. The new SAT will continue to use passages like these, but will also feature new passage types.

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The passages based on founding documents of the United States and the “Great Global Conversation” have gotten the most publicity, and chances are they will be older, more abstract, and more difficult than the usual passages. These kinds of passages might come from Supreme Court opinions, the Federalist Papers, congressional testimony, speeches and declarations from around the world, etc. If the speech by Barbara Jordan released by College Board as an example is representative, then these types of sources are likely to be more complex and challenging than the ones on the current SAT. Science-themed passages will also be accompanied by charts and graphs, adding a mathematical component to the passages.

Additionally, the passages for the writing portion of the verbal test will also likely be more challenging than those found on either the ACT or among the current SAT’s paragraph questions (which are found at the end of each 25 min. writing section). While this portion of the test will closely resemble the ACT English test in format, the passages are likely to be at a higher difficulty level, and they will certainly be more difficult than the current SAT’s paragraph questions, which are based on a multi-paragraph passage meant to imitate a rough draft of a student produced essay.

5)      No calculator for part of the math section.

On the new SAT, there will be 22 math questions that students will have to answer without the aid of a calculator. For students who are rusty on their multiplications tables or mental math in general, this will definitely pose an increased challenge.

So much for the “dumbing down” theory. If you will be taking the new SAT, then you’ve got some work to do! But don’t worry – even if the new SAT is harder, like all standardized tests it will still be coachable, and the experts at Test Masters will be ready to show you the new strategies you will need to succeed. As College Board has finally acknowledged, test prep really does make a difference, so rest assured: practice makes perfect. Until test day, keep up the good work, and good luck!

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