Learning From Your Peers: Examining Student Insights On The New SAT

This is a guest post written by Marshall Findlay of Applerouth Tutoring Services.

Student Insight From The New SAT

The March administration of the new SAT brought the first legitimate student feedback, and the emotions ran high as students took to social media over the weekend to voice their opinions of the College Board’s revised test.

While other articles delve into the student data in order to gain more insight about the test content and structure, it is worthwhile to examine student feedback to see what insights can be gleaned for those looking to take the tests in May and June.

“The math was very difficult and super wordy.”

One of the chief pieces of feedback we received from students was the increased level of reading on the math section. Students will encounter more word problems with more non-essential language. In order to counter this barrage of details, facts, and filler, students will need to sharpen their pencils and hone their active reading approaches with the math, possibly something they’ve never done before. I recommend the following:

  • Write out all your work!
  • Circle what the question is asking.
  • Underline key words such as additional, greater than, and “in terms of.”
  • Star questions you are not 100% sure you answered correctly to review later.

“The reading was extremely ambiguous.”

Students will get long passages, often from 19th century authors who, it seems, had a special fondness for extremely long and convoluted sentences. As a result, a student might read such passages carefully and still not be able to pick up the main idea. Other passages will dive deeply into scientific concepts, using obscure words that might be defined once at the beginning. Active reading (underlining key terms; starring the main idea; circling transition words like but, yet, or although; and taking notes) will be crucial, and students will also need to work on accurately paraphrasing sentences and paragraphs into their own words. This will take practice. If you feel that you’ve mastered your English class reading, try Project Gutenberg, which features primary sources on African-American literature, 19th Century writings, Politics, and Philosophy, the types of Great Global Conversation subjects that might appear on the next test. The goal is not to anticipate what passage the College Board might use, but to become acquainted with more esoteric writing styles, and hopefully gain a greater appreciation of excellent writing in the process!

“The new SAT is easier because of the extra time allotted.”

If not careful, the extra time afforded by the College Board can actually derail students. Yes, students have about 70-80 seconds per math question, but that time will be needed for extra arithmetic in the no-calculator section, or wordy data problems in the calculator section. Students will want to complete a few practice tests to develop a sense for using their time wisely: rush too much through a section, and you might make careless errors and second-guess yourself out of a right answer; take too much time, and you may not finish the section.

“There were more legitimate calculations on the no-calculator section than the calculator one.”

The no-calculator section will require students to remember basic arithmetic such as combining fractions with different denominators as well as higher-level algebra such as the quadratic formula. For many questions, you can still work backwards from the answer choices to get to the correct answer, but the most successful students will also have several ways of solving a problem. For example, for one systems of equations problem, you can solve for one variable, substitute into the second equation, and solve for the other variable. For other problems, students will need to stack the equations and eliminate variables that way. As you practice, don’t merely solve the problem and move on. Think about other ways you could have gotten to the right answer. This flexibility will greatly help when your “go to” approach is not available, and you have to think creatively about solving a problem.

If you took the March SAT, you have the benefit of first-hand exposure to the new test, and are in a strong position to evaluate your performance, tweak your approach, and get ready for May or June. If you missed the March administration, you have the benefit of feedback from your peers to ensure that you perform your best on the May and June tests.

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