Four Things You Should Know About the New SAT Math Test

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This tip for improving your SAT score was provided by Emma Chomin at Veritas Prep.

As you’ve probably heard, major changes are coming to the SAT in the spring of 2016. If you’re in the class of 2017, you’ll be among the first to take the new test. So what’s changing? Here’s what you need to know about the math portion of the redesign.

1. The new test emphasizes different content areas.

Ninety percent of the test consists of three content areas: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. The first two areas cover (you guessed it) algebra and data analysis skills, namely linear equations, functions, ratios, percents, and proportions. Passport to Advanced Math covers complex equations, including quadratics. Especially concerning data analysis, these changes reflect the math that I did as a college student in the social sciences much more closely than does current SAT math content, which I see as a hugely positive change. The remaining 10 percent of the test is simply called Additional Topics in Math, which mostly tests plane geometry. This is a big shift away from geometry compared with the current test, which spends about a quarter of its time on geometry. Within these content areas, the College Board has listed 41 specific skills that the new math test will assess. Fifteen percent of the math questions will have a hard science theme, and 15 percent will have a social studies theme.

2. You’ll only have access to your calculator for part of the test.

One of the biggest changes to SAT Math is the addition of a no-calculator section, which will be worth a third of your math score. The test, however, places an emphasis on students’ ability to identify when a calculator is an effective tool. The calculator section will include “questions in which the calculator could be a deterrent to expedience, thus assessing appropriate use of tools.”

3. There are some changes to the way multiple-choice questions work.

The test will include 45 multiple-choice questions in total, which will each have four answer choices rather than the current five. The “guessing penalty” of 0.25 points for each wrong answer will be eliminated. These two changes make the new test more similar to the current ACT. There will be 11 grid-in questions, and an Extended Thinking question worth four points will be added. The Extended Thinking question will have one word-problem scenario with multiple grid-in questions following it. You can check out an example Extended Thinking question here.

4. Speaking of practice questions …

The College Board will release official practice materials for the new SAT in the spring of 2015, so you’ll have an entire year to get comfortable with the test before taking it for the first time. Test-prep companies are already preparing for the switch, so rest assured that you’ll be able to find an SAT prep course specific to the redesigned test.

To get a full overview of the changes coming to the SAT, click here.