# The Center of Math Blog

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## Thursday, March 3, 2016

### The SAT Gets a Makeover

When college decision day rolls around, every high school senior hopes to see a “Congratulations!” envelope stuffed into their mailbox. However, as competition amongst students increases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get accepted into your college of choice. While extracurricular activities and GPAs are important in adding substance to your college application, there is one factor that may just stand above the rest— the SAT. No high school student wakes up on a Saturday morning yearning to take a 6 hour exam, but it may expected that students who have success in high school math classes would have a similar fate on the math portion of the SAT. Surprisingly, this often isn’t the case. Students who excel in high level math courses are often discouraged and frustrated when their SAT scores fail to align with their school performance. Why does this disparity occur so rampantly? The focus of math classes is typically centered on methodical thinking and importance is placed on the correct steps rather than just the correct solution. This focus on rationale and problem solving is great for grasping complex concepts, but does not match up with the format of the SAT. The multiple choice questions of the SAT do not allow for partial credit, and only the correct answer gives the student points. In math classes, shortcuts are discouraged, but those same shortcuts can prove to be incredibly advantageous during the SAT. The new SAT attempts to help ease the frustration and dread that surrounds the test. The focus shifted to mirror the Common Core and material being covered in classes. A "real-world" f

Know Your Enemy: Understanding the new SAT
In order to combat the trend of more students choosing the ACT over the SAT, the College Board decided to give the SAT a makeover. It is important to understand the alterations made in order to best prepare to take the exam.

Here are some prominent changes that will appear on the new SAT:

1. Eliminating the Guessing Penalty
Historically, the SAT subtracted points for guessing an incorrect answer. This led students to score higher if they left certain difficult questions blank. However, now that the guessing penalty is eliminated, students should make sure to fill in each question. Eliminate answers until you have narrowed down the options, then make your best guess!

This change goes hand in hand with number 1. Rather than 5 answer choices, there will only be 4 possible options. This raises the percentage of guessing correctly from 20% to 25%. This will also save time, as test takers only have to read and debate 4 options rather than 5.

3. Change in Vocabulary Questions
That's right.. put your flashcards away! Rather than extra challenging and even obscure vocabulary words, the College Board is filling the language sections with words likely to be heard in college classrooms. Words like "empirical" or "synthesis" are more closely aligned with the new exam than old SAT words like "impecunious" or "legerdemain".

The new SAT also made changes to the math concentrations on the exam. The new exam will focus on linear equations, complex equations/functions, and percentages/proportional reasoning. Like the vocabulary words, the math portion is more closely linked to math you will use in the 'real world'. There will still be both a calculator and non-calculator section, as well as a grid-in portion that accompanies the multiple choice questions. According to the College Board, the new exam is intended to "mirror the problem solving and modeling you'll do in college math and science courses, the jobs you hold, and your personal life".