Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

When the College Board announced it was redesigning the SAT last March, the world suffered a mini implosion. News pundits lamented the test being “dumbed down” for the next generation. College prep blogs worried that the new test would further disadvantage low-income and ESL students in the college admissions process. And future high school juniors asked themselves the timeless question: “What’s a good SAT score now?”

The only group of the above three that remains concerned is the one still facing high school. It’s a reasonable fear. The SAT has always represented the unknown, no matter how much you prepare. Being the guinea pig class for something that’s already nerve-wrecking is no fun. It could be a major headache for the Class of 2017 and beyond, but The Prospect is here to help. (If you want to know exactly what will affect you, there’s a handy chart for you here.) This guide will explain exactly what’s changed and how you can prepare for it.

According to the College Board, the test is being redesigned to “more closely reflect the skills and knowledge that . . . are most critical for college readiness and success.” College Board also adds that “the assessment will require students to have a stronger command of fewer topics.” So instead of forcing you to study three-syllable vocabulary words that no one really uses, the new SAT will touch on things more relevant to daily comprehension and problem solving. Seems legit.

The most obvious change will be the new 400-1600 point scale. This is because the essay will be optional and scored separately. You’ll now have 50 minutes to write it instead of the paltry 25 they give us now, and it will be scored according to an updated rubric more in line with college essay writing.

The new SAT will also have subsections with fancy names like “Command of Evidence”, “Passport to Advanced Mathematics”, “Words in Context”, and “Problem Solving & Data Analysis.” It all has the feel of an intrepid scientist trekking through the jungle, knowing in their “Heart of Algebra” that the only way they’ll make it out alive is to master “Expressions of Ideas” and “Standards of English Conventions.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

Though it sounds and looks confusing, these subsections will make the score report more detailed than previous years’ and allow students to see exactly where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

The last change is elimination of the guessing penalty. This made me weep tears of joy, as to guess or not to guess can be a more frustrating question than the algebra one you’re trying to answer. I know from experience.

As usual, the test will get harder as you go along.

Arlena, I hear you thinking, All that’s awesome, but what about the actual questions?

I know, I know. There’s no point in being free of a guessing penalty if the questions are so hard that guessing is all you can do. That’s why the College Board has released some sample problems so you know how to study. Based on these sample questions, the questions in the reading sections will be clearer, and the grammar sections look identical to the ACT’s. The math sections will focus more on applying data to real life than on theory. Also, there will be math sections where a calculator is permitted and others where a calculator isn’t.

Khan Academy has also officially partnered with the College Board to bring students free, personalized test prep for the new SAT. The only thing you need to take advantage of it is a laptop (or smartphone) and an internet connection, so jump on it.

SAT might seem like the scariest letters you have hear in your life so far, but this test isn’t something you should lose sleep over. It’s all part of the coming-of-age rite that is college admissions. Plus, you’ll have a cool story to tell your grandchildren when they ask about your SAT woes. May your number 2 pencils stay sharp and pointy and your study breaks be filled with tasty snacks.



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