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Acing the New SAT: What You Need to Know

Posted on Jul 14, 2018
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SATAre you in high school, and considering applying for an undergraduate degree in the US? One of the very first hurdles you need to cross is taking a standardized entrance exam, which is either the SAT or the ACT.

It is important to first decide between the SAT and the ACT, based on your academic strengths and test-taking abilities. Colleges do not prefer one test to the other, so take the exam where you think you could get a better comparative score. That is, take the test where you think you will score in a higher percentile when compared to other test takers.

If the new SAT is right for you, here are a few important pieces of information to note as a test taker

1. The total score of the exam has changed. You can now score anywhere between 400 to 1600 points on your SAT in total. It is divided into a Math section, and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (essentially, the Verbal section). You can score between 200 to 800 on each of these two sections.

2. The format of the exam has changed. The good news is that you now know the order in which each section will appear on the exam. What’s more challenging now is that you need to build your test-taking endurance. In the new version, the sections are longer, particularly the reading section which is 65 minutes. To prepare, build your ability to read for long periods of time without losing attention, by reading different and increasingly difficult materials.

Section Order No. Section Name No. of Minutes No. of Questions
1 Reading 65 52
2 Writing / Language 35 44
3 Math Without Calculator 25 20
4 Math With Calculator 55 38
5 Essay (Optional) 50 1
  3 hours, 50 minutes (including the essay) 154 questions, 1 essay


3. You are not penalized for guessing. You do not lose points for guessing anymore, so making an educated guess when you do not know the answer is now an option. You will only receive points when you answer the question correctly.

4. You do not need to learn long lists of obscure words. The term ‘SAT-word’ is now officially redundant. What you will now need to learn to do is to figure out the meaning of a word based on the way it is positioned and used in a sentence.

5. Both the verbal and math sections reflect how you will be challenged in a college classroom setting. By focusing on reading, comprehending and analyzing passages and on solving equations that tackle a wide range of disciplines, the test is trying to prepare you for college level classes across the humanities, social science and science.

6. Some things haven’t changed. There are still many exam preparation techniques that still apply. For instance, since it is still a multiple-choice format, you need to learn how to eliminate wrong answers in addition to studying to get the answer right.

Remember, schools only consider your best grade, so take the test early! It is best to take the test for the first time in the . If you get a great score in your first attempt, you can focus on building your profile and the rest of the application process. If you need to get a better score, you now have more time to study for the exam. Win-win!

Need help strategizing how to study for your test? ReachIvy can help!

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