New SAT Tips for Tutors

The New SAT is finally here, so tutors take note. There’s a new exam format you and your students need to keep up with. There are a number of shoulds and shouldn’ts for tutoring the exam in its new form. W’ell start with the “shouldnt’s” in this post, so you can break any outdated tutoring habits associated with the the former version of the exam.

SAT tutors shouldn’t focus on skills that have been removed in the New SAT

The exam has changed considerably with the new updates, and some key skill/content areas from the old test are no longer important. Sentence correction and sentence completions, seen in Reading and Writing on the old SAT, are gone from the exam entirely. And the Math Section now has little or no focus on statistics.

So don’t focus on these skills in your SAT tutoring sessions. Sentence-level work and obsolete math will waste your students’ time and will not leave them properly prepared for the current version of the SAT.

SAT tutors shouldn’t assume that their students will be doing an essay

The SAT Essay used to be required. The New SAT Essay is optional, and separately scored from the rest of the test.

So don’t assume that your students will do the essay. If the schools they’re applying to don’t require an essay– and most schools don’t– your students are unlikely to bother with this now-optional writing task. Do not assemble a bunch of essay materials for your students unless you’re sure they’re going to choose the writing option.

SAT tutors shouldn’t use materials for the old exam

The New SAT is distinctly different from the old test. If you  use prep materials for the old SAT to help your students, you are preparing for the wrong test, a test that no longer exists.

If your students spend much time studying the content and of the old SAT, they will be confused on exam day. They may even be less prepared for the test than they would have been if they hadn’t seen any SAT materials at all.

What you should do

So we’ve just covered what you should not do as a tutor. Each of these shouldnt’s has a flip side: if you shouldn’t focus on certain skills, you should focus on others. If you shouldn’t gather some up some types of prep materials,t here are pother prep materials you should seek out. In fact, I’d say the shoulds really outnumber the shouldnt’s for tutoring the new SAT.

Now that we’ve gotten the “don’t do this” part out of the way, lets be more positive. Let’s talk about the many things that SAT tutors can and should do to ensure that their students realize their goals on New SAT test day, and realize their dreams afterwards.

SAT tutors should teach the new skills on the New SAT

True to its name, the new SAT doesn’t just update old content… it introduces new dimensions to the exam. Graph and chart-based questions are huge on the new version of the exam, and appear in every SAT section.

So make sure your students are prepared for the very visual nature of the New SAT. Have a lot of New SAT-like infographics on hand, and be aware that some students find graphic reading comprehension particularly challenging.

Also know that in New SAT Math, trigonometry is now part of the exam– so be ready to help your students with some introductory trig. If your main focus of tutoring has always been the SAT, you yourself might be a little rusty with trig. These official SAT Math videos, offered through Khan Academy, can help both you and your students brush up on New SAT-level trig skills:

SAT Math also now requires more mental math, as one of the two New SAT Math sections doesn’t allow calculator use. So be sure to teach your students the mental shortcuts they’ll need on the current SAT.

Moving on to reading and writing, the language arts component of  the New SAT focuses much more on understanding the structure of a piece of writing. Many questions deal with sophisticated aspects of grammar, subtext, argument validity, and so on. Be sure to work with your students on these deeper dimensions of academic English.

SAT Tutors should use the new format of the test to their advantage

Before the College Board rolled out the New SAT, each skill on the SAT was spread over multiple sections. The sections were in near-random order, with different numbers of questions from section to section. A short math section could be followed by a long reading question set, then a shorter writing section, then two math sections of different length, and so on.

The new SAT format is much more streamlined. Section 1 is the Reading Test, Section 2 is the Writing and Language Test, Section 3 is the Math Test with no Calculator, and Section 4 is the Math Test with a calculator. The user-friendliness of the new setup is a powerful tool for demystifying test content and reducing test anxiety. So encourage the students to think of the New SAT as a simple, three subject exam with four clear sections they can master.

SAT Tutors should take advantage of the many free and affordable New SAT materials out there

The great thing about the New SAT is just how quickly the makers of the test and the test prep community have mobilized with revised prep materials.

Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board and made an excellent set of free SAT video lessons. The College Board itself has tons of free materials for the New SAT on their official SAT practice website, including free SAT practice tests. Moreover, the College Board has already put out an updated official guide for the New SAT.

And Magoosh itself offers a lot of help with the New SAT. Be sure to check out our our look at New SAT vs. Old SAT in terms of format, our Student’s Guide to the New SAT, our video lesson on New SAT math tips, and more for the redesigned SAT. And if the free materials on this blog aren’t quite enough, we offer affordable subscription-based Magoosh SAT video lessons and practice questions for you and your students too.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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