reading section of the New SAT is similar to the ACT in that the student is
given a passage to read then asked multiple choice questions. The passages are
chosen from the areas of US and World Literature, History/Social Studies, and
Science. Questions from the Literature section tend to focus on characters’ emotions
and relationships. Answering questions from the non-fiction sections is often
facilitated by focusing on topic sentences and the themes that are described in
the first and last paragraphs. Vocabulary is tested with reading comprehension
and by questions that refer to word usage. “As used in line 2, emulated most
The Reading Sectionof the New SAT differs from the ACT in three main ways.
reading passage often includes a graph and one question that relates to it. The
graphs are relatively straightforward and do not require advanced math skills.
My tips on rapid data analysis are:
the title of the graph to determine the subject.
the labels on the axes to see what is being compared.
the units on the axes to discover if the graph presents measured values or
graphs compare values to each other. (yearly rainfall in five major cities)
graphs present parts of a whole. (fraction of entering freshman who are English
graphs relate what was measured (y-axis) to what was varied (x-axis). (how
ambient temperature changes over time)
non-fiction passages may be a paired-passage set. (These sections are similar
to what I call the Dueling Scientists sections of the ACT.) Two opposing
viewpoints are presented, and students need to differentiate between them. In a
time-limited testing situation, it’s easy to forget who said what. The best way
to approach these sections is:
at the questions before reading the passages. Write “1” by questions that
pertain to the first viewpoint, “2” by questions that refer to the second
viewpoint and “both” by questions that compare the opinions.
the passage that states the first opinion. Answer the questions that relate to
the passage that states the second opinion. Answer its questions.
the questions that pertain to both sections.
concept question may be followed by related question. First the student is
asked about a major theme of the passage. The next question asks which
quotation best proves the answer to the previous question. These
double-jeopardy questions are problematic because, if the student answers the
first question incorrectly, there is little chance of getting the second
question right. Also, to save space, only the beginning and ending of the
quotes are given in the question, so the student must take time to look up the
quotations by line number.
Writing and Language Section of the New SAT is similar to the English section
of the ACT. Students need to know rules of grammar and punctuation. Review the
differences between sentences and phrases, subject-verb agreement and comma
use. Some questions relate to writing style, such as eliminating redundancies.
Often the student is asked to arrange the sentences in a paragraph in the
correct order. Occasionally this section also includes a graph.
in my discussion of the math section, I cannot list every topic that may be tested. The best
approach is to study a test-prep book or download practice tests.
post on the math section of the Redesigned SAT can be found here.
year Michigan is switching from the ACT to the Redesigned SAT for the free
college entrance exam offered in schools. I’m not bragging when I say I can do
every problem on the ACT. The students I tutor work through sample tests and
ask for help on the problems that stymie them. Even so, I had to prepare and
review to complete the math sections of the New SAT.
prevent surprises on Test Day, this post discusses some general differences
between the math sections of the ACT and the Redesigned SAT. For a complete
list of the topics tested on the SAT, see a test preparation manual. Some older
editions are still floating around, so get one that says “Redesigned SAT” or
“New SAT.” Practice tests can also be found online.
SAT allows students more time for each problem. On the ACT, students have 1
minute/problem. On the SAT, students get 1.25 minutes/problem on the No-Calculator
section and 1.45 minutes/problem on the Calculator section.
math section is divided into calculator and no-calculator sections. The no-calculator section includes 20 questions. The calculator section has 38 questions.
Ti83 or Ti84 calculator is necessary to complete the calculator section. (For
the ACT, a simpler calculator such as one from the Ti30 series is sufficient.)
Students should know how to use their graphing calculators to: enter scatter
plot points in lists and graph these points, fit regressions of curves and
lines, enter equations, find zeros of polynomials, enter exponents (both
fractional and negative), take roots, calculate trig functions and other standard
SAT tends to have more multi-step math problems.
tends to be more advanced on the SAT. The ACT covers Algebra I and Geometry
with four trig problems. The SAT focuses on Algebra II. For example, on the ACT
students must recognize that y = x2 + 5 is the equation of a
parabola, while on the SAT, students must understand how to transform functions.
A review of factoring polynomials and solving quadratic equations will not go
amiss. The SAT includes fewer geometry problems, although some proofs are
required. Students should review the criteria for proving congruence of
triangles. Familiarity with SOHCAHTOA (a mnemonic for the trig functions that
is taught in geometry) will see students through half of the trig problems on
the ACT. For the SAT, students should also be familiar with the unit circle and
the difference between degrees and radians.
math questions on the SAT are not multiple choice, but instead require that the
student enter a numerical answer. This approach makes guessing impossible. Before
Test Day, students should read this information on how to grid in numerical
calculation of some problems requires the solution to the previous problem. If
the student gets the first question wrong, it is improbable that the second
question can be answered correctly. Most educators agreed that double jeopardy
questions are poor testing technique. I hope future iterations of the test
remove this type of question.
questions require that the student find two separate values and add them, even
if this sum has no mathematical or physical meaning. For example, after finding
the Cartesian Coordinate (x,y), the student may be asked for x + y, or after
calculating time and distance, the question may ask for the sum of time and
are numerous “trick questions.” The student should read the problem and
underline what the question is asking. After the calculation is complete, the
student should double check what the question asked. For example the student
has calculated profit, and the question asks for percent change.
highly recommend students work practice tests before Test Day. Numerous tests
can be found online. Here is a link to the College Board sample tests.
future blog posts, I’ll write about the other sections of the
Redesigned SAT. Each post will include links to the others. Reading and Writing & Language