Goodbye Old SAT, Hello New SAT, Pt. 3 - Math

January 23 (two weeks ago) was the final testing date for the old SAT, and while many are finished with college entrance exams, a whole new class of students must now focus its attention to the new SAT. These students are pioneers, exploring the latest terrain in standardized testing, and like Lewis and Clark, they get to discover new challenges (and old foes) on the new SAT.

For all those students who plan on taking the new SAT, we have begun a series of posts that focuses on changes and tips for individual subjects. Last week, I talked about the new SAT Writing section. And before that, I discussed the new SAT Critical Reading section. This week’s topic is the new SAT Math section.

Here are the key changes and considerations:

1. Structure: Questions are split into two sections--no-calculator and calculator. You have 25 minutes to answer 20 no-calculator questions; you have 55 minutes to answer 38 calculator questions.

SAT Math is the only subject that spans multiple sections, but the sections are consecutive, so you’ll still be in “math mode” when you finish the no-calculator part and begin on the calculator questions. For both sections you will have standard multiple-choice questions and grid-ins (free responses). The split in sections shouldn’t be too much of a problem for students. After all, most questions should be calculated without using a calculator in the first place.

2. Question content: Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and graphics are all on the new SAT; questions are more straightforward and less obtuse.

Some of the key changes to the math section are that questions will no longer be as confusing to answer. Once upon a time, people used to do “SAT math” and then “normal math.” College Board is trying to eliminate the difference between what you see on the test and what you see in the real world. The remedy? Questions are more straightforward; however, one problem may be the subject of multiple questions. The complexity of the test doesn’t necessarily change, but you at least don’t have a headache trying to figure out what you should be figuring out.

Keep in mind that the algebra takes front and center stage on the new SAT Math. You should definitely brush up on the subject if you haven’t mastered it already. Also, geometry is not as important anymore, and trigonometry now appears on the test. Lastly, graphics and interpretation questions come up like they do in all the other sections, so if you are familiar with ACT Math and Science, then you will notice a lot of similarities.

3. Strategies: Know your algebraic formulas; know all the formulas.

So how do you score well on the new SAT Math? You need to know the formulas. There is no way around it. For the old SAT, students could still answer problems correctly by using tricks to overcome lapses in their knowledge, but that is almost impossible on the new SAT. I repeat: don’t think that the old tricks are going to save you. Take the time and put in the study to learn the fundamentals. Isn’t that what College Board is testing in the first place?

Overall, the new SAT Math section will present new obstacles, but by making the questions a lot easier to understand and answer, it will most likely be easier in the long run. If I were to rank the difficulty of new and old, I’d say that, without any preparation, the newer one is a little harder because you have to know the formulas. But formulas are things that you can learn, so there is more of chance to improve.

With all of these changes, there is one important thing to keep in mind: don’t go into the new test thinking it will be similar to the old one. Practice and preparation are key, and at B2A we have a spring semester course anda March cram course to help prepare students for the new SAT spring tests. Let us help you uncover the secrets and master the next stage in SAT testing. We pioneer for the pioneers.


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