“It’s possible to get a perfect score, so I’m going to try,” says Maeve McIntyre, a 16-year-old junior at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix.
Other high school students taking the SAT—or Scholastic Assessment Test—may not have the same high expectations, but they all share the same goal: to perform well on the standardized test used by U.S. colleges to screen applicants for admission.
On Saturday, March 5, Maeve and her classmates will be taking a brand-new, redesigned SAT.
How is the new SAT test different?
The new SAT is different in several ways, according to Bob Pimentel, owner of Pimentel Academic Services in Phoenix, where Maeve is being tutored in preparation for the March test. The old test scored students on three areas: writing, critical reading and math. The new test has just two areas: math and evidence-based reading. A written essay is optional.
“The reading score still has writing; and the math score has now been broken into two sections: math with and without a calculator,” says Pimentel. In addition, “The new math section involves almost exclusively word problems.”
The vocabulary section is gone, but “you have to learn how to read the passages, interpret the questions and know your parts of speech and grammar” in the reading section, he says.
What about that optional essay on the new SAT? While Arizona’s three state universities do not require it, other colleges do. Before taking the test, Pimentel recommends that students know what is required from colleges to which they plan to apply.
A perfect score for the new SAT is 1600—800 in math and 800 in reading. And the test is shorter—about three hours.
How to prepare for the SAT
Maeve says it’s been a lot of “practice, practice, practice!” She has been working on test preparation and is hoping her score on the new SAT helps her get a scholarship for college.
Preparing for the test is a matter of juggling. “I have to study for the SAT and I also have to do a ton of homework,” says Maeve.
Maeve’s mother, Sheila, has some advice for other parents: “As a parent, be aware of what is going on and that these tests are inevitable during junior year. It’s a lot of dates and deadlines, but [awareness helps] take the stress off the kids.”
“Instruction [beforehand] always helps,” says Pimentel. “These test are so big and complicated. To some degree, students really need a mentor or somebody to help them bring out…the nature of the test.”
Pimentel’s classes range from $300 to $900, depending upon the number of hours scheduled.
Free online assistance is also available to help students become familiar with and practice for the new test. The College Board, the nonprofit developer and administrator of the SAT, has teamed up with Khan Academy—an online, personalized-learning resource—to offer free test preparation.