3 Skills Tested on the New 2016 SAT

The new SAT, which debuts in March of 2016, is the result of restructuring both the content and format of the current SAT. For one, the SAT will return to its original score scale of 1600 (from the current 2400 points), and its sections will include evidence-based reading and writing, math, and an optional essay. Studying for a new test can be daunting, especially since the new redesign means the tried and true tricks students used on previous SAT tests may not be as effective. Rather than focusing on strategies, focus on building skills. Here are three skills tested on the new 2016 SAT:

1. Deciphering SAT words in context

Gone are the days of frantic flashcard studying and cramming to remember obscure vocabulary. Instead of focusing on the isolated meanings of words, the new exam tests students on the meaning and effect of words based on context. These words will probably be more familiar to you than the SAT vocabulary of current tests—they will also be more relevant in your college and future career.

2. Evidence-based interpretation and synthesis

The reading and writing section focuses on measuring your ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence. Throughout the test, you’ll encounter informational graphics (tables, charts, and graphs) and passages from a variety of genres that will test your ability to read across subjects and from various sources. Specifically in the reading test, you’ll be asked to locate where you found your answer in the text and to answer based on analysis of the passages and graphics. The writing test may ask students to read graphics and edit a passage to reflect the facts illustrated on the graphic. Students taking the new exam will face questions that test higher-level thinking and analysis, rather than focusing on correcting grammatical errors.

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On the SAT essay, you’ll be asked to analyze a passage and tease out how the writer has crafted his or her argument using evidence from the passage. This is different from the current version of the essay, which may ask students to respond to a theoretical prompt without analyzing sources or evidence. The College Board has designed this optional essay to more closely align with the writing assignments students will face in college—particularly how evidence, reasoning, and other devices work together. In the new SAT, the essay prompt stays the same across versions, but will be based on different passages.

3. Quantitative literacy and data analysis

The revamped math section is broken into three sections: Problem and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. The revamped section is designed to more closely reflect the math skills required for success in college and the workplace. Problem and Data Analysis emphasizes quantitative literacy, which includes utilizing tools like ratios and finding percentages to solve real-world problems. Questions within the Heart of Algebra will test students on linear equations and systems, while those within Passport to Advanced Math will require students to solve complex equations, including basic trigonometry (which was previously left out).

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Overall, the new exam may better reflect your abilities to solve real-world problems, rather than what students call an "archaic" focus on obscure vocabulary, correcting grammar, and testing knowledge in isolation. Source material, passages, and questions will come from a range of subjects, including a U.S. founding document. As an added plus, you won’t be penalized for guessing (versus the current ¼ point deduction for each incorrect answer)! The best way to prepare is to first hone these three skills tested on the new 2016 SAT, and then focus on specific testing strategies. Consider reading a prep book or reaching out to an experienced SAT tutor or for guidance.