The SAT Mathematics section is poised to undergo some major changes during the 2016 testing year. Many students are likely to find the anxiety of such a major standardized test compounded by the fact that they are now less sure exactly what to expect. Is test day going to be full of surprises? Should you consider an alternative prep strategy?

An important fact to realize is that the 2016 SAT Mathematics section is testing the same fundamental concepts as the SAT has tested for years. The College Board, college admissions officers, and potential employers all want to know how well you are able to apply reasoning and critical thinking skills. As a result, the SAT Mathematics section has always emphasized critical thinking as the core skill it seeks to gauge, and this core focus has not shifted in the revised version of the test.

What is new for the revised version of the SAT Math section is the style of questions you can expect to face. In years past, you may have seen questions concerning straightforward geometry, basic algebra, and logic. In 2016, you will be expected to perform at a higher level of reasoning. You will have to answer questions that focus on four major areas: linear algebraic functions; data analysis; advanced functions and inequalities; and geometry and trigonometry. Whether you need SAT Math tutoring in New York, SAT Math tutoring in Chicago, or SAT Math tutoring in Los Angeles, working one-on-one with an expert may be just the boost your studies need.

Questions concerning linear algebraic functions are probably those which you have the most experience. You will be expected to set up algebraic expressions reflecting situations described in words, formulating a mathematical equation to describe a system. This taps into significantly more abstract reasoning ability than does simply going through the motions of solving given equations. This abstract reasoning is more dramatically demanded in data analysis questions, where you are expected to distill major conclusions from provided tables or prose descriptions. You can think of this question type as part math, part reading comprehension!

These two types of questions have long been present on the SATs of years past, but the revised 2016 SAT includes questions testing more advanced concepts as well. Certain of its problems ask you to take the same principles you applied to basic functions and apply them to more advanced functions or inequalities. Similarly, geometry and trigonometry are used to test your ability to reason and manipulate shapes in space.

Course scheduling relative to your test date is one issue that you may want to consider more this year than in years past. Previously, the SAT was not directly based on much of the material you would see in your coursework. For instance, you would likely never see a question on a specific fact you covered in one class period two years ago. On the 2016 revised exam, however, the SAT Mathematics section is increasingly placing an emphasis on the material specifically covered in typical high school math classes. Trigonometry, appearing on the revised exam but previously not included on the SAT, is a good example of this new trend. As a result, it may be helpful to complete a trigonometry or advanced geometry course before sitting for the revised SAT. This is especially a concern for students who may have anticipated taking the test early, such as during their sophomore year.

If you want to begin reviewing for your SAT by focusing your attention on the math topics you understand least well, consult Varsity Tutors’ free SAT Math help content. Varsity Tutors also offers resources like a free SAT prep book to help with your self-paced study, or you may want to consider an SAT Math tutor. The model problems organized on our SAT Math help page include the correct answer and are each worked out in a provided explanation. No matter if you want to study a specific concept or a general topic, our SAT Math help page is organized to let you do so. Working through our example problems can help you identify exactly where you are misunderstanding a concept or making an error in solving a specific type of problem. In addition to the SAT Math help content and SAT Math tutoring, you may also want to consider using some of our SAT Math flash cards. Once you have improved your understanding, you can test your new knowledge using the free SAT Math practice tests and diagnostics also available on our Learning Tools site.

Whenever you take your exam, it is important to appreciate that the SAT Mathematics section is seeking to test your fundamental critical reasoning skill and analytical capacity. Working diligently and effectively during your rigorous high school curriculum is the best foundation for success, both on the SAT Mathematics section and into college.