Verdict: What we think about the New SAT

verdict

Verdict’s Out! Now that the New SAT from June 4th, 2016 has been published, the team at The Edge has examined and studied it closely. Here’s what we think:

  1. The skills required to ace the test are nothing new to The Edge and our students, The Edge’s proprietary strategies and approaches are just as effective as ever.
  2. The College Board has delivered on their promise to draw on a limited range of content. The content and questions, therefore, follow a predictable pattern.
  3. In conclusion, we’ve got this. :)

Let’s take a closer look at each section of the June 4 New SAT.

Reading

The content of the passages didn’t stray from the 3 categories of US and World Literature, History and Social Studies, and Science.

The first was a short story excerpt by Anton Chekov, a famous Russian author. As you can imagine, even when the text is not particularly challenging, there is always some difficulty in understanding a small excerpt from a larger story. You find yourself asking, “Ok. So, who are these characters? How are they related? Where are we? What’s going on? What’s the plot?”

Fear not! We have it down. Here’s our advice: don’t get bogged down by every minute detail. Breathe. Read closely, carefully, and quickly. Get the gist and tone of the article. And, as always, use The Edge’s strategy to eliminate down to the right answer.

The next three passages were US Founding Documents by Alexander Addison and John Stuart Mill respectively, followed by an article on flu vaccines. Making sense of US Founding Documents and science texts may seem daunting if, as an international student, you don’t know much about US history, or if you have no idea what words like “rampamycin” mean. Even still.

Don’t worry! SAT Reading is testing your reading comprehension skills, not your scientific or historical knowledge. We have the SAT II for testing your knowledge of a particular subject! However hard the question, you can answer it perfectly with evidence from the passage itself.

The fifth passage was on the use of data in our digital age. You’re probably thinking, “easy peasy…a topic I’m familiar with.” Not so quick. Remember that the SAT doesn’t require prior knowledge in the subject? Well, this is no exception. Familiarity with the context may give you a head start on reading, but remember, the answer has to be found within the text. Don’t let familiarity with the subject prevent you from focusing on the information given in the passage itself.New SAT

The last passage on chimpanzees was a little trickier. There were multiple viewpoints stated, which students had to analyze. In addition, the reader was asked to compare animal behavior to linguistic theory, an abstract task that many students might find challenging because it requires active and interdisciplinary thinking on the student’s part.

In conclusion, the key to the reading section is to know where to find the relevant information within the article to answer the questions.

Writing & Language

The W&L section may initially feel like a bombardment of random subjects. Texts are related to anything from sculpture parks to pharmaceuticals. The texts can come from anywhere! As long as you have the grammar down, the context should not be an obstacle.

Our students found the following three grammatical concepts the trickiest on the test:

  1. Restrictive Clauses
  2. Items in a series
  3. Sentence Formation

Note that they all have to do with punctuation.

The main takeaway is: know the grammar!

Math

One of the biggest changes in the SAT is that now the Math section accounts for 50% of the total score, instead of the former 33%. We think this is good news for international students, whose strengths generally lie in quantitative reasoning.

storyThe non-calculator section on the June 4 test was heavy on coordinate geometry. Several questions dealt with linear equations, slopes, distance = rate*time, slope-intercept formula. As promised, the SAT also asked about complex numbers.

Many students found that they did not use their calculators much on the calculator section. When a question called for computation, the numbers involved were generally round numbers.

In general, the Math section focused on Algebra, fluency in manipulating equations, and word problems.

Essay

The Essay section is now optional, but a lot of college applications require students to take it.

The new Essay section is a better assessment of students’ writing abilities than the old one. Students no longer write about whether they agree or disagree with the fluffy, open-ended prompt provided. Rather, they concentrate on the author’s stylistic choices and rhetorical appeals and explain how the author is able to convincingly make an argument.

The Verdict: the new SAT appears to be an improvement, testing concepts that students must master to succeed in high school, in college, and in their careers. In short:

court