Proposed 2016 SAT test and its relevance to the Oct '14 SAT and other near-term tests
Some of the upcoming announced changes to the SAT, which will begin in March 2016, can already be seen in the evolution of the questions on recent SAT tests -- primarily in the Math section.
The Critical Reading section is changing in structure so significantly with its two new components of Evidence Based Reading and Writing that we are unlikely to see much of a shift within the context of the present CR section of the Oct '14 or 2015 tests. What we may see a bit more of, though, are Vocabulary-in-Context questions. Perhaps we will also begin to see new informational graphics in one of the passages, since this will be a key new element introduced in the new test. Most likely, what students will continue to see are new Experimental CR sections with informational graphics and two-tiered types of questions unlike anything they have currently seen in their SAT practice. This may be comforting for those who have four CR sections on their tests; they may be able to more easily identify the Experimental section and therefore ease up a bit on this section.
The greater relevance of the proposed changes to the present tests is in the Math section. For background, the new 2016 Math section will have 57 Questions worth 60 points in 80 minutes. The present Math test contains 54 Questions worth 54 points in 70 minutes. So one notable difference will be 14% more time for 3 additional questions; this means that more of the questions will require extended reasoning, informational graphic data analysis, and lengthy word problem decoding. Another notable change is that the test will have one Extended Reasoning question that will be worth three points, not just one!
The emphasis of the new 2016 Math section will be shifting toward more Algebra, logic, data analysis, and problem solving questions (90% of the new test) with only a minor section (10%) covering geometry shapes, calculations, and Trig (new). Geometry presently accounts for roughly 28% of the current test. New content will include radians/degrees, Basic Trig functions, complex numbers, statistics (standard deviation), and the circle graph in coordinate geometry -- all topics which are presently covered in the ACT. Many of the SAT proposed changes make the new SAT look more like the ACT (more on this in other blogs). The emphasis will be on placing math in the context of the real world, where "math requires sustained chains of reasoning and application."
How do these changes relate to the upcoming October '14 SAT and other near-term tests? I believe that we have already begun to see some small shifts in the January and May 2014 tests. Collegeboard has proposed an emphasis on the following problem types: Ratios, proportions, graphical relationships, inequalities, linear relationships, linear systems of equations, sequences, and "expressions" problems that have specific associations.
We have already begun to see more Ratio problems in recent tests. One recent problem gave us a part to part ratio, then asked what the total would be if we were given a different part to part ratio. The student had to be able to see that, since the two parts were not in the same proportion as the established ratio, one part would be used up much more quickly and one would not be able to be fully used (much like in a chemical reaction in which the two components were not in the balanced ratio). This was the first time I have seen this type of ratio problem which required a deeper analysis before handling the math. We have also seen more graphical problems on recent tests. These have been in the form of shaded area graphs with inequalities, scatterplots, bar graphs, function graphs that require a reflection, and parabola graphs. Expect more of these!
Sequences have also been more prominent in recent tests. Specifically, CB has begun to present more Arithmetic or Geometric sequence problems. Linear systems problems have been on all of the recent tests -- another announced area of emphasis. These problems are now most frequently in the Grid-in area to prevent a student from using a short-cut Back-solving approach. It has been more common to have three variables and three equations, and for an additional "twist", sometimes the question has asked for a relationship between two variables instead of asking for "y" for example.
So, I encourage my students to put their analytical brains to work! Continue to be methodical in underlining parts of the questions, writing out your intermediate steps, and re-reading the Question before you circle an answer. Expect to see some new "twists" that require a bit more logic or analysis than what you have gotten used to. But rest assured, if you have been practicing consistently, you will be prepared for these new challenges. Good luck!