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Is The New SAT Harder Than The Old One?

What Is SAT? Old One vs New One

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam used by the majority of universities to make admission decisions. The test has primarily multiple-choice questions and is done using pencil and paper. The SAT is administered by the College Board.

The test’s core purpose is measuring a high school student’s readiness for college. The SAT helps the college admission boards in assessing all the college applicants fairly. The college admission boards review the applicants’ SAT scores alongside with their grade point average (GPA) in high school.  Other factors that contribute to making college admission decisions include the classes taken by the student in high school, the extracurricular activities they were involved in, their recommendation letters, and personal statements.

When Was the New SAT Launched?

In March 2016, the SAT changed from the old SAT to the current new SAT. The changes would impact high school kids in the class of 2017 or younger.

Overview of the New SAT

The New SAT differs greatly from the old one. Regarding the content of the test, there have been no changes in the past that have been this drastic.

The overall format of the New SAT

The previous version of the SAT had ten different sections of varying lengths. The sections were twenty-five, twenty, or ten minutes long. Often, the order of the subjects tested was random with no specific criteria followed.

The format of the new SAT is much more predictable compared to the old one. This makes the new SAT more welcome. The test-takers can know the precise amount of time they’ll take in the test, the number of questions they’ll get in the test and the order of the subjects that will be tested. Moreover, the test-takers will not have to struggle to answer ten sections but instead will be dealing only with four or five sections –if they choose to handle the optional essay section. Also, the dreaded experimental section in the old SAT has been eliminated from the test.

The table shows the structure of the new SAT.

old sat vs new sat

The new SAT:

  • Examines different topics in one chunk of time.
  • Does not subdivide each section into several other shorter sections;
  • Has the essay section at the end of the test and gives test-takers the freedom to choose whether to take it or not.

After one hour of doing the test, there is a five-minute break. This means that the students get a break after completing the test’s Reading section and another break after the Math-No-Calculator section. If one chooses to handle the essay section, they also get a break before embarking on it. Besides making the test’s entire structure more predictable, College Board now gives test-takers a little insight into what they are going to find in each section of the SAT by revealing the subject matters that the test covers.

The Reading Section

The Reading section is the longest in the new SAT. This section takes 65 minutes from start to completion. All the questions in this section are passage based. The test-takers are required to answer ten to twelve questions on each of the five passages in the section. The section has a total of 52 questions. All the questions in the Reading section have four multiple choices.

The subject matter of the passages is predetermined thus making the test preparation process easier for test-takers as students know what to subject matters to study on. One of the passages has the subject of the US or world literature, two of the passages deals with social studies and history, and the other two passages deal with science. Typically, there are graphics accompanying one or more of this section’s passages.

The Writing and Language Section

The new SAT writing and language section about 35 minutes. All the questions in this section are also passage-based.

The test-takers are required to answer eleven questions to each passage in the section making it a total of forty-four. The whole of this section has answers based multiple choices. Some of the questions ask about correcting words and sentences and, therefore, feature an answer option of “No change.”

Due to the new SAT’s predictability, the subject matter of passages is predetermined. The passages have subject matters on Social Studies, Science, Humanities and Careers. The whole section is usually argument-based, nonfiction, or explanatory. In this section, there is a graphic that accompanies a one or more of the passages. Test-takers are required to determine whether both the passage and graphic are in sync.

The Essay Section

The essay section takes fifty minutes. The test-takers who choose to handle it are required to write a 650-750-word essay. This section is essentially thesis-driven, and students are supposed to make an analysis of a passage’s argument.

The Math Section

The Math Section of the new SAT has two subdivisions:

The Math-No-Calculator Section

In this Math section, the test-takers are not allowed to use a calculator. This section takes twenty-five minutes and contains twenty questions. Fifteen questions in this section are multiple choices, and the rest are student-produced responses. The three skills that are tested here include:

  • Passport to Advanced Math;
  • Heart of Algebra;
  • Additional Topic.

The Math with Calculator Section

Here, the student is allowed to use a calculator. This section takes 55 minutes and consists of 38 questions. Thirty of these questions are multiple choices, and eight of them are grid-ins. One of the student-produced responses is an Extended Thinking question. This question has a graphic or word problem with an accompanying task.

Reasons Why the New SAT May Be Harder

Due to the drastic changes made to the SAT, the new SAT may be harder than the old one.

  • It does not require memorizing the vocabulary

One of the biggest changes in the new SAT is that the test-takers are not required to answer the sentence completion questions. Because of this, the student will not have to memorize vocabulary anymore.

With the new SAT’s format, memorization of SAT vocabulary is not helpful as one needs to have great reading and comprehension skills. Studying for these questions is much harder than studying for the sentence completion ones.

  • The test has more reading than its predecessor

The new SAT has more reading than the old one. The test’s whole Reading section is based on passages. The Writing section also references a few parts in the comprehension passages.

  • Questions that Require Data Interpretation

The new SAT has many graphs in the Writing and Reading sections. The data interpretation questions can be a little challenging to the students who are not good at drawing conclusions.

Tips on How to Prepare for the New SAT

Since the new SAT has more reading and passage-based and questions, it is crucial for students to prepare by reading widely to get used to reading long passages.

Some of the strategies for studying to get ready for this section include:

  • Practicing with many passage-based questions to get more comfortable with answering these questions.
  • Practice reading long and more comprehension passages.

The new SAT features numerous problems in Math that require an understanding of advanced concepts. Besides, there are also data interpretation tasks.  Since the Math section holds the test’s largest proportion of the score, it is crucial to be well prepared to handle it. The best study strategy in this section is to use the ACT questions for preparing because the math problems in the ACT are similar to those in the new SAT.

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