The new SAT: What are we really testing?

Certification: Test Prep SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test


SAT is the test required for admission to most of the universities in the United States. It was introduced for the first time in 1926. SAT was once referred to as the Scholastic Aptitude Test but now it is known simply as the SAT. SAT is owned by a private, non-profit organization in the United States, the College Board and administered and prepared by the Educational Testing Service.

SAT has changed a lot over the years since its beginning in 1926. The number and types of sections included in the test has undergone significant changes, for example there used to be a “Verbal” section in the SAT but there no longer is. In 2005, a writing section was included in the SAT taking it from a 1600 points scale to a 2400 points scale. The Writing section was included to assess the writing capabilities of students applying for college admission because writing was a skill deemed important for college education. In the new SAT which is set to appear in the spring of 2016 writing section will be made optional and will be graded separately. Students will be given 50 minutes to finish this section.

Assessment of the analytical skills.

In the Writing Section of the new SAT (which is optional btw) you will not be allowed to write an essay based on your opinions. In fact in this re-designed SAT you will be asked to write about the author’s argument in an analytical way. Whether you agree with the author or not should not be reflected in the essay. The essay should be focused on how the author builds the argument. The re-designed essay pattern of the writing section will assess the reasoning and analytical skills of the prospective college students.

Vocabulary that counts.

Gone will be the days when students had to memorize the lists of abstruse words to get a good score on SAT. In the new SAT, students will be tested only on those words that will actually be used in college. In other words SAT words will no longer be the ones without any practical application for students.

What is taught in school matters.

The officials in College Board have realized that SAT over the years has strayed from the stuff that is actually taught in schools and it should not. So, in the new SAT, the stuff that is taught in school will matter. The new SAT will test students on the knowledge that they gain in their schools. This step is being taken so that students focus more on their day-to-day schooling.

Re-designed Reading Section.

Critical Reading Section is an important part of the SAT accounting for 800 points. The students are asked to read a certain passage thoroughly and then answer questions about it. In the new SAT the reading section will contain paragraphs taken from subjects like History, Social Studies, Science etc. SAT is also going to have passages from US founding documents from the spring of 2016.

Concepts over speed.

In the new SAT students will be allowed to spend more time on the Math section and their concepts will be tested. In addition, calculators will be banned in specific portions of the section testing students ability to mentally calculate. The new SAT will cover a broader range of Math topics then before but conceptual understanding will the key to acing the new SAT Math section.

Handling pressure.

SAT is a very important exam for you if you are planning to go to college in the States. That is a lot of pressure in itself. There are many students who are brilliant in their studies but place them in a stressful condition and their brain freezes. A very important factor that is tested in the SAT is your ability to perform under pressure. Can you see reason when the clock is ticking ever so fast?

Not straight questions.

Questions on the SAT are not straight forward. They are not going to ask you if two and two equals four. The questions will be tricky. You have to look through them carefully and find out what the question is really about. Most of the SAT questions are multiple choice questions and many options will seem correct, sometimes more than one. The real test is to find the minor differences.

Time management.

Just like any test the new SAT will require students to manage their time effectively. Even though the new SAT is expected to give the students more time for solving questions than usual but still there will be no time to waste. The time will have to be smartly divided amongst the questions, giving less time to the easy ones and leaving more time for the hard ones.

Mental capabilities not money.

Over the years SAT prep industry has grown wide. It has become a 1 billion dollar industry. Students spend hundreds of dollars on SAT prep materials and the sad part is the students who can’t afford to spend that much money are actually at a disadvantage. Studies have shown that students belonging to elite class who can spend more money on their SAT prep actually score higher on the SAT. This is really unfair to the brilliant students out there who are just as capable or more but don’t have the money. So College Board has decided to make SAT prep material available for free so all students have an equal chance.

To summarize.

The main objective of SAT is to test students’ readiness for college. In addition to the grade point average, SAT scores are used as a criteria for college admission. The new SAT will test students’ math concepts, ability to analyze an argument critically, ability to comprehend passages from diverse subjects and much more. The ability to perform under stressful conditions and not letting SAT trick you are just as important as ever.


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