The SAT Shape-Shifts Again!

We can help with your questions about the SAT's new mutations!
We can help with your questions about the SAT’s new mutations!

OK, since the revision of the SAT is a pretty major topic in college admissions right now, I probably didn’t have to use a crazy title to get you to read about the New SAT, but how else was I going to fit Mystique into a blog post?

YES! If you hadn’t heard, the SAT is changing March of 2016. We know what you’re thinking, Class of ’17: “Why me? WHY NOW?!” But don’t get too stressed out! You might even like some of the changes they’re making. For instance, you’ll no longer be penalized for wrong answers, and they’re doing away with that pesky sentence completion. And never fear! We here at Test Masters are here to help guide you through the transition! In this post, we’ll get our feet wet with some of the overall format changes.

First and foremost, you read that last paragraph correctly: on the Revised SAT and PSAT there will no longer be a 1/4 point deduction for wrong answers. So go ahead, BUBBLE! Fill that scantron! Guess recklessly—just try to eliminate some answer choices, if you have time. Another big formatting change, Critical Reading is absorbing the multiple choice portion of Writing, bringing a Perfect Score back down to a 1600. The multiple choice portion of the exam will be three hours long. The new essay will be an “optional” fifty-minute document-based writing experience that comes at the end of the exam.

The Evidence-Based Writing section itself will focus on revising and editing four passages in the areas of Careers, History/Social Studies, Humanities, and Science. And, if you missed it the first time, the Evidence-Based Reading section will no longer ask you to fill in the blank in a sentence with one of five words you don’t know (oh, happy day!). Instead, you’ll be asked to answer only fifty-two passage-based questions, a few of which will require you to interpret and synthesize information from related graphics.

As far as Math goes, the biggest changes are that there will be a no-calculator section and one “Extended Thinking” grid-in question. Additionally, the Revised SAT will have some higher-level math, including manipulating polynomials, solving quadratic and higher-order equations, and working with trigonometric functions.

The PSAT will experience some similar changes in 2016. The test will be two hours and forty-five minutes. Again, there will be no penalty for wrong answers, and the reading and writing sections will be scored together. So it would follow that the scoring would return to a 160 scale, right? Well, that’s not happening. Instead both the  Reading/Writing and Math sections will be scored on a scale of 160-760, making the maximum score a 1520 (now that just seems intentionally confusing). The College Board has also suggested that the Revised PSAT will be aimed at students who’ve completed two years of high school while the Revised SAT will be better suited to students who’ve completed or are about to complete their junior year, so no need to worry about math you haven’t covered yet appearing on the PSAT.

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If only there were a handy flow chart about all this...
If only there were a handy flow chart about all this…

All in all, the change is nothing to be scared of! If you’ve already been practicing for the current version of the SAT, you’ve been building the necessary skills to tackle the Revised SAT as well! You might have to re-evaluate your strategy a little bit based on the format changes, but ultimately the test will still evaluate the same skills and abilities that the current version does. And, if you’re still worried (looking at you, Class of ’17), just remember: this is NOT the first time they’ve revised the SAT. Back in 2005, when the “New SAT” was, well, new, it took admissions offices a couple of years to decide how they were going to use and interpret the scores. Realizing that you’re part of the guinea pig year, colleges will probably give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the new test scores.

Look out for upcoming posts about the changes to each section specifically as well as new tips and tricks from your friends at Test Masters and College Compass.

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