Starting May 2015, the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is changing its structure. While there may be some rumors running around about how the test “is going to be harder” for non-native speakers, the truth is that the exam hasn’t changed significantly. Rather, College Board, the writers of the SAT test, are mostly “packaging” the test differently, making previous content more holistic and applicable to real-life situations. Here is a quick overview of the new test’s sections:
- Reading test
- Writing and Language Arts section (the essay is now optional)
- Math with/without calculator
Changes to the Reading Section
Unless you are charged in an 18th-century English tribune, “arraign” is probably not a word you’d ever use. The writers of the old SAT, TOEFL relished in such lofty vocabulary, putting it into the sentence completion and reading comprehension assignments; as a result, student had to memorize vast lists of esoteric words. No more: the new SAT, although it has advanced vocabulary, focuses on words that you would use: pragmatic, economical, indifferent, etc. All vocabulary is now examined in context, i.e. within a passage that allows you to understand the context around the word.
Additionally, the new Reading Test includes graphs and charts that you pertain to the reading passage. Some questions will require that you compare information from the passage to that in the graph/chart. These questions are relatively straight-forward, and do not require math skills.
Changes to the Writing and Language Art
The sentence correction assignments, which focus on grammar and language effectiveness, are no longer in standalone sentences, but like the reading test, are part of a longer passage. This allows test-takers to contextualize and evaluate whether the writing does justice with the content, and how it could be improved. Here, too, graphs and charts are included.
The essay, which in the past was required, is now an optional 50-minute argument essay assignment. It no longer requires test-takers to formulate an opinion (in other words, no one cares what you think), but rather discuss how the author of a passage uses various literary devices, arguments and assumptions. Passages for the essay can be taken from famous texts such as the Declaration of Independence.
Math: 1+1 Remains 2
Changes to the math section are quite minute. Now there are two math sections, and new topics have been added (like trigonometry), but they require a relatively basic understanding. All in all, the math section requires the same skills – to think quantitatively and evaluate real-life situations (like a ball thrown in the air) using mathematical operations.
All in all, (forgive our gross generalization) Israelis are known for their ability to synthesize information and apply it to real-world situations. Israelis usually shy away from assignments that require “theoretical” knowledge, like arcane vocabulary. To this end, the Revised SAT does more justice with Israeli students, as it rewards test-takers for the ability to think practically and logically. College Board has revised the exam so that it’s more “democratic,” replacing bookworm knowledge (which is still required to some degree, make no mistake) with skills for operating in college.
The author is the curriculum development manager at Yeda Plus. Our center will be delighted to provide you with more information about the New SAT; we offer Friday and midweekcourses designed specifically to reflect the changes in the test.