What to Expect on the Revised SAT: Math

SineCosineAnimationThe College Board claims that the Revised SAT Math will “require a stronger command of fewer, more important topics.” Considering that I personally managed to get two liberal arts degrees without ever having to demonstrate my ability (or lack there of) to solve problems using the trigonometric functions that I forgot immediately after the Calculus AP exam, I don’t know exactly how the College Board determines what topics are “more important,” but the test does seem to be shifting away from its more logic and reasoning based math in favor of problems that involve applying what a student would learn throughout high school math (possibly, dare I say it, more like the ACT).

Specifically, the revised version of the test appearing in March of 2016 will evidently cover four content areas: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math, and Additional Topics in Math (“Heart of Algebra”? “Passport to Advanced Math”? real cute, College Board). Another big difference is that the test will now be split into a fifty-five minute calculator section, and a twenty-five minute no-calculator section. Yes, you’ll be assessed over your ability to math without that handy contraption that maths for you—how unfair! Between the two sections you’ll have a total of fifty-seven questions: forty-five multiple choice, eleven student produced responses (grid-ins), and one “extended thinking” question (two-part grid-in).

Heart of Algebra

Ostensibly, algebra will make up 35% of the Revised SAT. According to the College Board, you should expect to see thirteen algebra questions in the calculator section and eight in the no-calculator section. Since the current test does include a significant amount of algebra, the biggest difference here may, in fact, be the addition of a no-calculator portion. If you forgot how your eighth grade teacher taught you how to work everything out by hand, you may want to revisit.

Problem Solving and Data Analysis

If you struggle with ratios, rates, and percentages (hey, it’s confusing), or if you can never quite wrap your head around word problems and what they’re asking you to solve (also confusing), you’ll definitely need to learn some tips and tricks to help you with these fourteen questions on the calculator portion of the exam. Additionally, the “extended thinking” question will fall under this category. While the two-part question is worth four points (as opposed to the usual one), it will demand similar problem-solving skills as other problems in the same topic (which are, it’s worth noting, still pretty heavily examined by the current version of the test). For example, the extended thinking question might first ask you to calculate an exchange rate given an example of the rate in use and then ask you to use the exchange rate you just calculated to solve and additional problem.

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Passport to Advanced Math

The redesigned SAT might have you humming “Pop Goes the Weasel” in an effort to remember the quadratic formula. Yes, the Passport to Advanced Math questions will evidently require experience with quadratic equations, as well as polynomials, exponential functions, systems of equations, and other higher-level math. While the College Board hasn’t put out too much in the way of example problems, it certainly seems as though these sixteen questions (seven calculator/nine no-calculator) will quiz over similar material as some of the higher-level ACT problems, which are more advanced than anything on the current SAT. While it may sound like the College Board is adding a ton of difficult material, some problems that fall into this category may be as simple as identifying the graph that correlates to an equation—not every problem will require you to painstakingly solve for x.

Additional Topics in Math

Considering the other topics, one has to wonder why they didn’t go with “Math Potpourri” for this one, but essentially this is a catchall category. Most of the content dimensions described on the specifications put out by the college board are related to geometry, and there seems to be a heavy focus on circles, including problems that require converting degrees into radians (gross). Like the rest of the math, however, these six questions (three on each section) will test skills that a student should have learned in high school math rather than focusing on logic and reasoning.

While it may seem like an intimidating overhaul, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, plenty of material is not changing, though the format in which it’s presented might. Also, although the College Board has released these specifications, there’s no guarantee that all of these items will be included on the test—no one will really know how much is changed until they start releasing new exams. And, although the math might seem more advanced, the College Board claims the new test will emphasize “mathematical reasoning over reasoning questions disconnected from the mathematics curriculum,” meaning this material is all covered in high school math—no logic puzzle surprises!

Finally, your friends at Test Masters are busy developing new material that explores the new math section! We’ll be here to help you reach your score goals even if math isn’t your forte!


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