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Lucas Fink

3 Ways the New SAT Might Be Harder

First, let me say this loud and clear: at this point, nobody knows exactly what the 2016 SAT will look like. So if you’re in the class of 2017, that means you get to be the guinea pigs. The College Board is going to experiment with your brain.

Okay, not really. They’re going to experiment on volunteers first, then throw the results of those experiments at you. But you’ll be the first wave of students that gets to see the new test in the wild, in the real world, outside of the College Board’s studies and trials.

But even if we don’t yet know exactly what the test will look like, we have some ideas (we even made an infographic of the top 10 changes coming to the SAT). Some of it’s definitely good news for test-takers—the new SAT won’t ask you about the definitions of “timorous” and “desultory,” for example.  But some of it is a bit…well, uglier.


Really Old Texts

Don’t worry, you’re not going to be reading Shakespeare (even if you happen to like the old bard, you have to admit it’s not easy reading). But the texts of today’s SAT, which are mostly written in pretty modern English, are going to be replaced by “founding documents and the great global conversation.” In other words, you might get an excerpt from the Constitution. Have you ever actually read any of the Constitution? Importance aside, it’s pretty dull. Here’s a taste:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Compare that to something by Haruki Murakami, who you could easily see on today’s SAT:

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that.

If I were taking the SAT, I’d rather see the Murakami passage, personally.


Higher Level Math

Right now, the math on the SAT doesn’t go much further than geometry and algebra. Sure, you might see a question on combinations, but you won’t see any trigonometry and the test only scratches the surface of parabolas. Instead of using that higher-level math, they make hard questions through tricky setups and combining skills into one question.

But the new SAT is supposed to be less tricky, more immediately focused on testing what you’ve studied in school. In other words, it’ll be less of a puzzle and more of a math final. So while you might have been able to logic through some of the toughest SAT questions in the old test without much background knowledge, the new SAT might ask you to know a lot more about those parabolas.


More Careful Essays

No more making up facts! The 2016 SAT will ask you to use information from a specific passage when you write your essay. Supposedly, you’re going to have to really think about what you’re writing (how awful, right?) instead of just spitting out tons and tons of big words, which the current SAT rewards.

That means the essay will be about more than just writing; it will be about logic and analysis. If you don’t analyze the text well, you won’t be able to write an effective essay. That’s one more thing to think about, and it makes the assignment a little bit trickier to prepare for.


The Catch

You know, though, in a way it doesn’t matter if the new SAT is harder. Maybe it will be, for the reasons above, but maybe the other changes will even it out, making the test easier in some ways.

In either case, you’re still going to be scored based on how well everybody else does on the test, too. If it’s ridiculously hard, then everybody will have trouble, and getting the same number of answers right as that girl at the top of your class does will give you a high score, even if that’s only half of the questions answered correctly. Yes, it’s worth knowing what’s in store for you (come back in mid-April for more information about the specific questions on the test!) but don’t worry too much if it’s “harder.” That won’t make it harder to get a high score, even if it seems like it would.


About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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