The Advantages to Being the First to Take the New SAT

By Sam Rosensohn

The old troublesome SAT, about to take its final shot at high school students this month, will be replaced by the New SAT in March, a test that in some ways is more like the ACT than the old SAT.

It’s not that the New SAT doesn’t attempt to gaff, cuff and bag students, but large portions on the verbal test are more content based.

The new grammar section is far more content based than any section on the old verbal SAT, and the clues in the new sentence completion questions stand out like sore thumbs in comparison to the old camouflaged pointers.

The critical reading sections on the official SAT practice tests are more interesting and easier to decipher. One of the new passages is about two college students who are falling for each other.

That’s a far cry from the severe old SAT texts that were often exceedingly technical, at times impervious and downright meaningless to most students.

If history is any guide, there will be an advantage to being amongst the first to take the test on March 12. Historically, the first time a new standardized test is given raw scores are low.

Think of when the CMTs and the CAPT exams were first introduced. Scores were initially low, because students hadn’t seen or prepped for the tests. Once the districts sent their teachers to CMT and CAPT prep classes the scores started to improve.

Raw SAT scores stand to be lower in March 2005 than they will be in March 2008, because the test has yet to be fully exposed and deconstructed. There’s an excellent chance that a 750 a year from now will reflect a higher raw score.

It’s quite possible that a year from now high school Language Arts teachers will review misplaced modifiers, faulty parallelism and ambiguous antecedents, but that’s not happening today.

So get a hold of the College Board’s The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT, study the new components (Algebra II, the Essay, and Grammar) and get the advantage on this test.

As for the grammar, this new portion of the test measures a student’s ability to fix grammatically incorrect sentences and paragraphs. These questions appear to be more concrete (ACT like) and less abstract than the old standard SAT questions.

The grammar and the 25-minute essay, which make up 800 of the test’s 2,400 points, are relatively easy to master if students invest the time.

So let’s take a quick look at the new SAT that has grown in size and added 800 points to the score. There used to be seven sections on the test. There are now ten sections.

The old test took three hours and a perfect score was 1600. The new test takes three hours and forty five minutes and fatigue is certain to be a factor.

The verbal test has doubled in size and is worth 1600 points, while the math portion has been reduced by 10 percent and is worth 800 points.

The College Board has reduced the number of math questions and they appear to be more difficult than the math problems on the old SAT.  For the first time students will be asked to solve Algebra II questions.

After comparing the eight new practice tests issued by the College Board this fall with old SATs that span from 1995 to 2004, the verbal portion appears to be easier, and the math appears to be more difficult.

The timed, 25-minute essay will present a problem if students don’t prep for it. So get a hold of the College Board’s prep book and start prepping. The book offers eight new practice tests including eight practice essays.

For those of you just starting to look at SAT questions, remember on the verbal side the answers are always found in the text. If the answers weren’t embedded in the text, it would be a guessing game – not a standardized test.

If you know what the question is asking, read the right portion of the text, and have a good idea of what the text has stated or inferred, three of the five answers will have nothing to do with the price of eggs.

You might even find that four of the five possible answers will have nothing to do with the text. Wrong answers are easy to spot, which is why students want to read with eyes peeled, and brain on wrong-answer alert.

The new verbal test seems easier; the math seems harder. So get cracking on those practice tests. They’ll frustrate you at the start, but stay lose – things get a lot better once you start to see that you can crush this predictable test.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at