The New SAT Part II: Reading is Fun and Mental

This is the second part of a series on the new version of the SAT. College Board will roll out more changes over the next 18 months as we await confirmation on the final form of the exam. It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam. We have some good stuff.  Did you miss the first installment? Check it out here)

Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone.


With the old SAT, the Reading part of the test consisted of Reading Comprehension, passages on various subjects with questions about theme, vocabulary, and other verbal concepts, and Sentence Completion, which required students to fill in the blank or blanks of sentences with the correct vocabulary words or words. On the current SAT, the Writing section of the test consists of one essay written from a specific prompt, and Improving Sentences, which ask students to read sentences and paragraphs, find the error, or identify the ways in which the sentences can be improved. The new exam will shift things around, as there will be a Reading Section, Writing and Language, Math, and an optional essay.

Let’s take a look at what’s new on “The Reading Test.”

 The first detail that struck me about the Reading Test is that students may actually have to do some thinking now. The “higher complexity” passage example challenges the student’s abilities with elevated vocabulary, rhetorical strategies and concepts, and historical references. Additionally, some questions will require “Command of Evidence,” meaning not only will the student have to grasp what is said in the passage, but also build on that knowledge through linked questions, as seen in the example below.

The second question is a direct follow up to the first and makes the student consider the logic of the first question when answering the second. Due to the lack of a guessing penalty, these kinds of corollary questions can now appear on the SAT and force students to actually think out their answers. However, an increase in the difficulty of the passages is offset by the decrease in the difficulty of vocabulary. Gone are sentence completions and their requirements to know polysyllabic words that actually could be useful in some form in the future. In its stead, we are given “Words in Context” that actively confront the student with such strenuous vocabulary like the word “intense.”

Get ready to step up your vocab game, kids. The Reading Test will also include a “founding document” or a text from the “Great Global Conversation,” which is completely not an attempt to include more free texts from the public domain, but instead an attempt to incorporate content a student would learn in the classroom. These passages will be in the same layout and have the same question types as all other passages, but College Board is hanging its hat on these passages connecting the classroom to the test.

The last big change in The Reading Test is the inclusion of “informational graphics.” These graphics are also used in the “The Writing and Language Test” (more on that section later) and are College Board’s naked attempt to incorporate an ACT-style science section into the test without actually calling anything a “science section.”

This question could have come straight from the ACT. I’m also not sure what makes it applicable to the Reading Test since it requires no reading whatsoever of the passage, and simply the ability to recognize the fact that Northeast is the opposite of Southwest.

That’s the scoop on the Reading Test.  Stay tuned for more.


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