Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Redesigned SAT - Reading and Writing & Language

The 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 nearly means…”

The Reading Section of the New SAT differs from the ACT in three main ways.

1. The 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:
  • Read the title of the graph to determine the subject.
  • Read the labels on the axes to see what is being compared.
  • Read the units on the axes to discover if the graph presents measured values or percent change.
  • Bar graphs compare values to each other. (yearly rainfall in five major cities)
  • Pie graphs present parts of a whole. (fraction of entering freshman who are English majors)
  • Line graphs relate what was measured (y-axis) to what was varied (x-axis). (how ambient temperature changes over time)

2. The 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:
  • Look 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.
  • Read the passage that states the first opinion. Answer the questions that relate to it.
  • Read the passage that states the second opinion. Answer its questions.
  • Answer the questions that pertain to both sections.

3. A 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.

The 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. 

As 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.

My post on the math section of the Redesigned SAT can be found here


Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm seriously glad we don't have to think of these things anymore and that Anna Li is successfully in college.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Natalie: Congratulations to you and Anna Li. I think this year, the first year of the switch is going to be hard on students.