I attended a conference session explaining the new SAT college entrance test. There are several changes to the new edition, rolled out in Spring 2016. The biggest change that the teens will like is that the overall test time has been shortened! And the essay writing portion is optional now.

The first – and longest test section – is the Reading and Comprehension (65 minutes). The verbal and writing section is 35 minutes.

Now let’s talk about the math sections. Big changes here. The biggest surprise – and biggest challenge for the teens – is that for the one math section of 20 math computation problems students are not allowed to use a calculator. They have to handle fractions, decimals, percents, and long division with just pencil and paper.

There is another math section of over 30 questions and students may use their calculator.  In the old edition, there were many questions that integrated geometry and algebra. In the new edition, only six questions involve geometry. The new content includes solving sets of equations, inequalities, rearranging  formulas, data analysis, solving quadratic and cubic equations, and manipulating polynomials.

If a student has taken a challenging college-prep Algebra II course, and finished it before taking the SAT, they should do fine. Taking an Advanced Math course will give even more practice and confidence with problem solving.

Here are four suggestions to get prepared for the new SAT:

  1. Take the Practice SAT well in advance so you know what more preparation you may need.


  1. Sign up for the Drexel University “Math Problem of the Week” and get some more experience solving problems


  1. Visit Khan Academy online for some free math review and practice


  1. Enroll in a SAT Prep class to be better prepared. Here’s a link to one taught by a homeschool graduate who now teaches math.


Here’s a bonus for you – just studying for the SAT (especially the math sections) gets you more ready for college!

One more take-away suggestion – don’t become dependent on a calculator for simple computation of numbers, fractions, and decimals; do as much by hand as you can. Also, learn how to estimate answers to know if your calculated answer is reasonable.