The New SAT

The new SAT was first administered in March 2016. The New SAT returns to the old SAT scoring between 400 - 1600. There is no wrong-answer penalty, and the number of answer choices has been reduced from 5 to 4. This means that your chances of choosing the right answer have increased from 20% to 25%.

The new SAT has two sections with an optional essay section. The two sections are Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

The test takes 3 hours without the essay, and 3 hours and 50 minutes with the essay.

The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section contains the following subsections:

Reading - 52 questions in 65 minutes
Writing and Language - 45 questions in 35 minutes

The Math Section contains the following two subsections:

Math - 20 questions in 25 minutes without calculator
Math - 38 questions in 55 minutes with calculator

Essay (Optional) - 50 minutes

The good news is that the penalty for wrong answers has been eliminated, so (educated) guess away!

Let’s look at the sections in more detail.

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section

The Reading Test consists of five passages, including some readings from classic texts, and science. Regarding the latter, two of the five passages will cover scientific topics with charts and figures, emulating the ACT Science section.

Each of the five passages will be somewhat lengthy as the short reading passages have been eliminated.

The reading passages are more complex than they used to be, and a new type of question asks you to find appropriate evidence within the passage to support your answer to previous questions.

SAT reading questions are still in chronological order to the passage, making it easier than in the ACT to find the corresponding text passages.

The Writing and Language Test no longer includes sentence completion, choosing the best word to complete a sentence. Rather, vocabulary questions will be asked in the context of supplied reading passages. In this way, SAT will be replacing its emphasis on sheer breadth of vocabulary to depth of vocabulary in context. Grammar similarly will be assessed in the context of reading.

The Math Section

The Math Section consists of two tests, one without a calculator and one with a calculator. As has always been the case with the SAT, there is still a heavy emphasis on algebra. New data analysis questions have been added, making up approximately one-third of the test, which include ratios, percentages and understanding graphs and charts.
There are only 6 questions on geometry and trigonometry.

The Math section includes 13 grid-in questions, in which the student bubbles in her own answer without the convenience of multiple choice.

The Essay

The essay is optional, but you should sit for it if any of your top-choice colleges either requires it or recommends it (”recommends” is code language for “do it.”)

You have 50 minutes for the essay section in which you are asked to analyze an argumentative essay. You are graded on the essay on three skills — reading, analysis and writing itself.

Which SAT Subject Test in Mathematics Should I Take?

In addition to the SAT and PSAT tests, the College Board also offers subject matter tests which assess your competence in subjects you studied in high school. These are essential for assessing your mathematics and science abilities when applying for schools in these subject areas. In this article, I will discuss the SAT Subject Tests in Mathematics.

There are two SAT Subject Tests in Mathematics — 1 and 2. Which one you should sit for depends on which math classes you have taken.

SAT Subject Test Mathematics 1

SAT Subject Test Mathematics 1 expects that you have already completed the following math courses, or their equivalent:

  • Two years of Algebra
  • One year of Geometry

The anticipated skills you should possess are:

  • Number and operations
  • Algebra and functions
  • Geometry and measurement (plane Euclidean, coordinate, three-dimensional, and trigonometry)
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probabilityThe specific topics Mathematics I tests are:

And the topics are:

  • Orders of operation
  • Ratios and proportions
  • Complex numbers
  • Elementary number theory, matrices and sequences
  • Algebraic expressions, equations, inequalities
  • Linear equations
  • Polynomials
  • Rational numbers
  • Exponentials
  • Plane Euclidean Geometry
  • Solving for surface area and volume of three-dimensional solids
  • Statistical functions, such as mean, median, mode, range, interquartile range, graphs and plots, least squares linear regressions and probability.

The SAT II Mathematics 2 Test

The Mathematics 2 Test assesses, in addition to the above subjects, trigonometry and elementary precalculus. If you have taken trigonometry and precalculus, you should take this second test, thereby highlighting your skills in higher-level mathematics.

These additional topics include:

  • Logarithmic, trigonometric, periodic, piecewise, recursive and parametric equations
  • Right triangles, identities, radian measure, law of cosines, law of sines, equations and double angle formulas (12 - 16% of the test)

Test Details

Each test consists of 50 multiple choice questions in a 60-minute period, which works out to 1.2 minutes per question. You are encouraged to bring a calculator you are comfortable with using, first and foremost, though a graphing calculator is preferred.

Test Scoring

Each test is scored on a scale from 200 - 800. In 2015, the top 90% of students who took the Mathematics 1 test scored 750 or higher. 50% of the students scored 640 or higher. Note that the scores on subject tests tend to be higher than SAT scores.

Regarding the Mathematics 2 test, 81% or higher scored a perfect 800. 50% of the students taking the Mathematics 2 Subject Test scored 710 or higher.

Which SAT Subject Test in Mathematics Test Should You Take?

If you have taken trigonometry and precalculus, received grades of B or higher, and are comfortable using a scientific or graphing calculator, the College Board recommends taking the Mathematics 2 subject test. They also warn against taking the Mathematics I test instead in hopes of scoring better. You will most likely do better taking the test that covers the topics you learned most recently.

How to Prepare for the Tests

The best way to prepare for this and any test is to take as many practice tests as you can.  Your best source for test prep and test materials is the The Official SAT Subject Tests in Mathematics Levels 1 & 2 Study Guide, which contains two full-length previously released tests.  Simulate the testing situation to the best of your ability, take the test, score yourself, and correct your mistakes.  Then rinse and repeat.

More information about the Mathematics Subject Tests can be found on the College Board website here.

Using MIT Open Courseware for AP Exam Prep

A not-so-hidden gem for learners among the internet’s hit-or-misses is MIT’s Open Courseware. MIT has published 2340 courses and their course materials online for free public access. This means that anyone anywhere can take an MIT course, albeit not for credit. And, since these materials are recorded, you can take them at any time you want, anywhere you want.

As quoted on MIT’s Open Courseware Website, “The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.”

Dick K.P. Yue, Professor, MIT School of Engineering

Among MIT’s most visited courses are Linear Algebra and Calculus courses, Computer Programming and Quantum Physics. In addition to the heavily math and science-focused courses one would expect, MIT also offers courses from their Humanities, Architecture and Management. For anyone with internet access, a world-class education is only a mouse-click away.

In addition, MIT has curated its materials for high school students, here. MIT offers specifically for its high school audience course highlights in Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Humanities & Social Sciences, Mathematics and Physics. Most notably, MIT provides exam prep resources for the AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Physics exams. Have an AP Biology exam coming up? MIT has sorted its lessons by topic and sub-topic so you can easily navigate to the topic you want to review, providing essential video clips, reading passages and practice problems.

Here are some links to MIT test prep review in the following areas:

AP Biology

AP Calculus

AP Chemistry

AP Physics

Learning is available everywhere, for those who are willing to go out and get it.