How Difficult is the New SAT?

Difficulty of the New SAT

This is a question that, as a short answer and a very, very long one, full of “it depends”.

So here is the short answer: Yes, the SAT is hard. You have to sit in one place for almost four hours, all while answering questions that range from straightforward to head-scratching difficult. Oh, and the sections are all timed.

Is the SAT hard for everybody, the way, say, climbing Mt. Everest is? I’d argue yes. I can’t just walk into the SAT—despite all my years’ experience with standardized tests saying—and think, “This will be a cakewalk”. Again, you have to concentrate for hours, giving each question its due. Or careless errors will get you.

More specifically, and this is where things get a little tricky, how hard will the SAT be for you? Well you know yourself best, but I’ll give you some prototypes:


The high achiever

Do you study whenever you have a moment, acing most of your classes? Are you an academic wunderkind? Well, the SAT should be a breeze.

Actually, I’d argue that it’ll be pretty difficulty given your exacting standards. See, you’re not going to be comfortable with a more 80-percentile ranking. You’ve always been in or near the top 2%. And performing at that level on the SAT is going to be anything but easy.

The verbal person

So you like reading and you like words. Well, the SAT might be easier for you in this sense than the old SAT. There really aren’t too many trap answers. And you’ll be able to sound out many items in the grammar section. You probably won’t have too much trouble cracking the top 20%, though I’d recommend doing a few practice tests to get a hang of the test.

On the math part, you’re likely going to struggle more. And the SAT will be difficult. My advice is the same for the verbal: take a few practice tests. But this time around you’ll realize you probably need a lot more work. So figure out those areas you are weak in and spend most of your study time reviewing these.


The math person

The SAT likely won’t be too hard on the math front. The trigonometry is high level and the word problems aren’t unlike questions you’ve seen in class. Sure, some of the algebra can get a little technical, but if you are strong in this area you’ll likely excel on the test.

The math student, or specifically somebody who is good at picking up on patterns, might be hurt by the fact that the reading questions are more about understanding long, dense passages, than about spotting traps that the SAT recycles for answer choices. With the new test, you’ll really have to understand what the passage is talking about.


The slacker

The SAT will actually be easy for you. You’re not going to try, so how tough will it really be. Though, your score will probably reflect this.


The hater

If you don’t like reading, and think math serves no practical function in life, you are likely to think the SAT is really tough. Getting a competitive score will be more difficult.


Average Joe (or Jane)

This test will be difficult since, as I already mentioned, you’ll have to focus for many hours. The key, though, is to become better. Start with a practice test. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and then study the latter, taking frequent practice tests and repeating the process. If you keep pushing and working hard, the test won’t necessarily become easy, but your score will go up.


Need more help?

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

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