Calling all high school freshmen! The New SAT has finally been revealed and the rumors are true: you will no longer be required to memorize “low-utility” words like “raconteur,” “sycophantic,” “recondite,” and “braggart.” You will, however, need to set aside your calculators for a full 25 minutes of the math section and apply your quantitative and verbal literacy skills to real-world problems: is it more economical to invest in a prepaid card during your trip to India than to just charge everything to your Traveler’s card? In a scatterplot of the rise and fall of the manatee population of Florida, how does the line of best fit help you determine the average yearly increase/decrease in the number of manatees? Several other big changes promise to make the New SAT a better assessment of college readiness.
Take a look at how the New SAT differs from its current form:
|Category||Current SAT||New SAT|
|Test Format||Paper only||Paper and digital|
|Essay Section||Required; No need to substantiate arguments with verifiable facts||Optional; Judged based on analysis coherence and strength|
|Duration||3 hours, 45 minutes||3 hours; additional 50 minutes with Essay|
|Scoring Range||600 – 2400||400 – 1600|
|Point Deductions||¼ point for each incorrect response on multiple-choice questions (no deduction for incorrect math grid-in questions)
||No point deductions for incorrect answers for any section
|Components||1) Critical Reading; 2) Writing with Essay; and 3)Math||1) Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (includes Reading Test and Writing and Language Test); 2) Math; and 3) Optional Essay|
|Reading/Writing Section||1) Emphasis on general reasoning skills and vocabulary; 2) Vocabulary questions based on compact contexts (1-2 sentences); and 3) No subscores||1) Continued emphasis on reasoning combined with a clearer focus on the knowledge and skills required for college success; 2) Greater emphasis on the meaning of words in extended contexts (multi-sentence contexts) and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact; and 3) Two subscores: Expression of Ideas and Standard English Conventions|
||1) An array of high school-level math topics; 2) No subscores; 3) 70 minutes for 54 question; and 4) Calculator permitted on all questions||1) Three subscores: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math; 2) 80 minutes for 57 questions; and 3) No calculator permitted for 25 minutes|
|Essay||1) Required; administered at the beginning of the SAT; 2) 25 allotted minutes; and 3) Students asked to present an opinion on a given issue||1) Optional; administered at the end of the SAT; postsecondary institutions decide whether they will require the Essay for admission; 2) 50 allotted minutes; and 3) Students asked to analyze a given history, social studies, or literary text|
|Subscore Reporting||None||Subscores for every test|
|Answer Choices||Five answer choices per question||Four answer choices per question|
Eight Biggest Changes To The Test
1. Relevant Words in Context
The new SAT will ask students to use context clues to decide the most accurate meaning of a common word like “intense.” In a given sentence, does it mean emotional, concentrated, brilliant or determined? Questions on the redesigned SAT’s Reading Test might also explore how the same word shifts meaning between or even within contexts. For example, consider how Abraham Lincoln uses the word “dedicate” in the Gettysburg Address. While students will be amply familiar with its conventional meaning, “dedicate” assumes nuanced connotations throughout the celebrated speech that will require careful decoding and a fully fleshed understanding of the passage.
2. Command of Evidence
The Evidence-based Reading and Writing and Essay sections of the new SAT will ask students to demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources. These include informational graphics and multi-paragraph passages excerpted from literature and literary nonfiction; texts in the humanities, science, history, and social studies; and career-related sources.
3. Essay Analyzing a Source
Gone are the days of responding to an open-ended prompt with a well-argued opinion. The new and optional Essay section asks students to read a passage and explain how the author builds on an argument to persuade an audience. Students will analyze the author’s use of reasoning, stylistic and persuasive elements, and evidence.
4. Focus on Math that Matters Most
The new SAT Math section will focus on three essential areas of math: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. Each will receive subscores. This new section focuses significantly on Problem Solving and Data Analysis questions which tests students’ ability to create a representation of a problem, consider the units involved, attend to the meaning of quantities, and use different properties of operations and objects. The Heart of Algebra questions test students’ mastery of linear equations and systems, and the Passport to Advanced Math questions focus on complex equations and the manipulations they require.
For 25 minutes of the 80-minute long section, students will have to set aside their calculators. The new no-calculator section will afford a more accurate assessment of students’ quantitative literacy and understanding.
5. Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts
From the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section to the Math section, the new SAT grounds its questions in real-world problems that are directly related to the work performed in college and career.
6. Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies
The new SAT problems will not only be more real-world oriented, but also require students to apply their verbal and quantitative literacy skills to questions that have science, history and social studies contexts. This is just another move to support skills that students will use in college, in their jobs and in their lives.
7. Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation
Every new SAT test will include a passage from one of the founding documents or from the “global conversation.” Students will have to closely scrutinize and analyze these texts for tone, rhetorical flourish and efficacy among other elements of literary analysis.
8. No Penalty for Wrong Answers
The transition to “right-only” scoring will, College Board hopes, encourage students to give the best answer they have to every problem.
We at MathSP are excited about this new SAT. We believe that all eight changes will make this test a much fairer and more effective barometer of college readiness. That doesn’t mean that test prep won’t be necessary. Quite the contrary – given the many new contexts that the SAT will use to test students’ quantitative and verbal literacy muscles, test prep will be even more important for this new exam.
Work with us. MathSP specializes in equipping students with the problem-solving skills they need to achieve their peak performance on the SAT and in life.
Sample Problems Directly From the College Board’s SAT Preview
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section:
Relevant Words In Context Sample Problem
[. . .] The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions. Some regions could end up bloated beyond the capacity of their infrastructure, while others struggle, their promise stymied by inadequate human or other resources.
Question: As used in line 55, “intense” most nearly means
Solution: The question asks students to determine word meaning within a social science context. Students will have to set aside their most common uses of the word and focus on context clues to choose the correct answer. The best answer is Choice B because the context clearly indicates with the word “clustering” that jobs, innovation and productivity are becoming denser geographically.
Command of Evidence Sample Problems
. . . The North Carolina ratification convention: “No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity.” Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.” I do not mean political parties in that sense. The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.” [. . .]
Adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974, as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives.
Question 1: In lines 49-54 (“Prosecutions . . . sense”), what is the most likely reason Jordan draws a distinction between two types of “parties?”
A) To counter the suggestion that impeachment is or should be about partisan politics
B) To disagree with Hamilton’s claim that impeachment proceedings excite passions
C) To contend that Hamilton was too timid in his support for the concept of impeachment
D) To argue that impeachment cases are decided more on the basis of politics than on justice
Question 2: Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 13-17 (“It . . . office”)
It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office.
B) Lines 20-24 (“The division . . . astute”)
The division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge—the framers of this Constitution were very astute.
C) Lines 55-58 (“The drawing . . . misdemeanors”)
The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.”
D) Lines 65-68 (“Congress . . . transportation”)
Congress has a lot to do: appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation.
Solution 1: The first of the two questions asks students to analyze a distinction that Barbara Jordan draws in her speech between two types of “parties”: the informal associations to which Alexander Hamilton refers and formal, organized political parties such as the modern-day Republican and Democratic parties. The best answer to this question is Choice A. Jordan anticipates that listeners to her speech might misinterpret her use of Hamilton’s quotation as suggesting that she thinks impeachment is essentially a tool of organized political parties to achieve partisan ends, with one party attacking and another defending the president. In the above excerpt of her speech and in the larger reading passage, Jordan makes clear that she thinks impeachment should be reserved only for the most serious of offenses — ones that should rankle people of any political affiliation.
Solution 2: The second question asks students to determine which of four portions of the passage provides the best textual evidence for the answer to the previous question, thereby demonstrating their command of evidence. In this case, Choice C provides the best support because the lines cited in Choice C help emphasize Jordan’s point that impeachment is so serious that its use must be reserved for high crimes and misdemeanors, not for merely political gains. In these sorts of questions, students make explicit their reasoning as they read and comprehend text.
Evidence-Based Reading Sample Problem
Adapted from Adam Werbach, “The American Commuter Spends 38 Hours a Year Stuck in Traffic.” ©2013 by The Atlantic.
Question: Which claim about traffic congestion is supported by the graph?
A) New York City commuters spend less time annually delayed by traffic congestion than the average for very large cities.
B) Los Angeles commuters are delayed more hours annually by traffic congestion than are commuters in Washington, DC.
C) Commuters in Washington, D.C., face greater delays annually due to traffic congestion than do commuters in New York City.
D) Commuters in Detroit spend more time delayed annually by traffic congestion than do commuters in Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago.
Solution: The best answer here is Choice C, as the only one of the four claims supported by the graph is that automobile commuters in Washington, D.C., face greater delays annually than do automobile commuters in New York City. Higher bars on the graph represent longer annual commute delays than do lower bars; moreover, the number of hours of annual commute delay generally decreases as one moves from left to right on the graph. The bar for Washington, D.C., is higher than and to the left of that for New York City, meaning that D.C. commuters experience greater amounts of delay each year. Note that while graph- reading skill is assessed in this question, computational skill is not; students need only make relative comparisons of bar heights and locations to answer the question correctly.
Heart of Algebra Sample Problem
Question: Based on the system of equations below, what is the value of the product xy?
4x - y =3y+7
x + 8y = 4
Solution: This problem rewards fluency in solving pairs of simultaneous linear equations. Rather than looking for a clever way of back-solving the value of the product xy from the system (a technique that wouldn’t work for this problem), students can solve the system for the values of x and y, then simply multiply them to get Choice C. Note that because the system is not given in standard form, this requires doing some additional algebra, further reinforcing the need for fluency.
Passport to Advanced Math Sample Problem
Question: The function f is defined by f (x) = 2x^3 + 3x^2 + cx + 8, where c is a constant. In the xy-plane, the graph of f intersects the x-axis at the three points (–4, 0), (1/2, 0), and (p, 0). What is the value of c?
Solution: This problem assesses conceptual understanding of polynomials and their graphs. If a student understands these concepts and requires, for example, the point (–4, 0) to lie on the graph, this results in 0 = 2(-4)^3 + (-4)^2+ c(–4) + 8. A student who looks for and makes use of structure will monitor the calculation at this point and recognize an equation that determines the desired value of c, –18. Seeing that he or she is on the right track, the student will then perform the calculations required to solve for c. Choice A is correct.
Problem Solving and Data Analysis Sample Problem
Question: The scatterplot above shows counts of Florida manatees, a type of sea mammal, from 1991 to 2011. Based on the line of best fit to the data shown, which of the following values is closest to the average yearly increase in the number of manatees?
Solution: Modeling with mathematics is a multistep process, and rich applications are instrumental for assessing students’ knowledge/skills at every step of the modeling process. In this example, students must interpret the slope of the line of best fit for the scatterplot as the average increase in the number of manatees per year, while taking the scales of the axes into consideration.
Choice C is correct. The slope of the line of best fit is the value of the average increase in manatees per year. Using approximate values found along the line of best fit (1,200 manatees in 1991 and 4,200 manatees in 2011), the approximate slope can be calculated as 3,000/20 = 150.
Problem Solving Extended-Thinking Sample Problem
An international bank issues its Traveler credit cards worldwide. When a customer makes a purchase using a Traveler card in a currency different from the customer’s home currency, the bank converts the purchase price at the daily foreign exchange rate and then charges a 4% fee on the converted cost.
Sara lives in the United States, but is on vacation in India. She used her Traveler card for a purchase that cost 602 rupees (Indian currency). The bank posted a charge of $9.88 to her account that included the 4% fee.
Question 1: What foreign exchange rate, in Indian rupees per one U.S. dollar, did the bank use for Sara’s charge? Round your answer to the nearest whole number.
Question 2: A bank in India sells a prepaid credit card worth 7,500 rupees. Sara can buy the prepaid card using dollars at the daily exchange rate with no fee, but she will lose any money left unspent on the prepaid card. What is the least number of the 7,500 rupees on the prepaid card Sara must spend for the prepaid card to be cheaper than charging all her purchases on the Traveler card? Round your answer to the nearest whole number of rupees.
Solution 1: $9.88 represents the conversion of 602 rupees plus a 4% fee on the converted cost.
To calculate the original cost of the item in dollars, x:
1.04x = 9.88
x = 9.5
Since the original cost is $9.50, to calculate the exchange rate r, in Indian rupees per one U.S. dollar:
9.50 dollars(r rupee/1 dollar) = 602 rupees
r = 63 rupees
Solution 2: Let d dollars be the cost of the 7,500-rupee prepaid card. This implies that the exchange rate on this particular day is d/7,500 dollars per rupee. Suppose Sara’s total purchases on the prepaid card were r rupees. The value of the r rupees in dollars is (d/7,500)r dollars. If Sara spent the r rupees on the Traveler card instead, she would be charged (1.04)(d/7,500)r dollars. To answer the question about how many rupees Sara must spend in order to make the Traveler card a cheaper option (in dollars) for spending the r rupees, we set up the inequality 1.04(d/7,500)r > d. Rewriting both sides reveals 1.04(r/7,500)d > 1d, from which we can infer 1.04(r/7,500) > 1.
Dividing on both sides by 1.04 and multiplying on both sides by 7,500 finally yields r > 7,212. Hence the least number of rupees Sara must spend for the prepaid card to be cheaper than the Traveler card is 7,212.
This problem is an extended-thinking question that requires students to go through multiple steps to produce the solution. Such extended-thinking questions on the New SAT require students to deeply think through the process of solving problems. Set within a range of real-world contexts, extended-thinking questions require students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them; make connections between and among the different parts of a stimulus; plan a solution approach, as no scaffolding is provided to suggest a solution strategy; abstract, analyze, and refine an approach as needed; and produce and validate a response. These types of questions require the application of complex cognitive skills and will require a little more thinking time for students as students will generally see longer problems in their postsecondary work. By including extended- thinking questions, the new SAT rewards and incentivizes aligned, productive work in classrooms.
Learn more about the New SAT.