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The Top 5 Things to Know about the New SAT

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The College Board’s 2014 announcement that there would be a complete overhaul of the SAT sent many people into a tizzy; and the time has finally come for students to meet the new test. The good news is, even with the test’s latest revisions, you know more than you think you do.

Guest blogger and test prep expert Erika Oppenheimer offers some savvy advice to help you take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. With her five tips in mind, you are bound to get the most out of your standardized testing, no matter what new challenges are thrown at you.

1. Preparation is worthwhile.

Like the ACT (and, for that matter, the old SAT), the new SAT follows a set format and assesses consistent skills and knowledge. Even better: this information is out there for you to use! You can find four official practice tests in the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide (the same tests are also available as free printable PDFs on the College Board’s website). There are additional practice quizzes and questions organized by subject and skill on the Khan Academy website. You may supplement with “unofficial” prep material from companies such as Princeton Review, Kaplan, McGraw Hill, and Barron’s—particularly for their study guide content which covers the math formulas and grammar rules tested on the SAT. But keep in mind that the highest quality of practice tests will come from the source, in this case the College Board. (Khan Academy is a special case because their material is released in partnership with the College Board.)

2. Much of the “old” advice still applies.

As snappy media headlines (this one included) emphasize the *newness* of the New SAT, and articles highlighting the changes between the old and new test abound, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many of the techniques that enable you to skillfully take the SAT remain unchanged. Don’t just try to find the right answer; also eliminate wrong answers. Take your best guess. Keep moving. Stay centered. Underline. Show your work. Take a deep breath. The guidelines for being a savvy test taker don’t vary as much as the tests to which you apply them.

3. Build your endurance.

One of the most significant changes between the old and new SAT is in their structures. The test is no longer broken down into shorter sprints. The New SAT’s Reading Test, in particular, is a bit of a marathon, clocking in at 65 minutes. Build your endurance by reading for extended periods of time without diverting your attention. Start by reading for an amount of time that feels comfortable, and subsequently add time to your sessions until you are reading for an hour at least two days a week. Challenge yourself by reading more difficult material. You may also read high-quality articles like those you might find in The New Yorker or Smithsonian Magazine, historical speeches and documents, and excerpts from classical literature.

4. Everyone is in the same boat.

Everyone has access to the same four tests and the same information about the tests. Do the best you can with the resources available to you, and trust that your efforts are good enough. You’ve got this!!!

5. There is another option.

If the uncertainty around the New SAT makes you nervous, you can still opt to take the ACT, which has a proven track record with colleges and more official practice tests available. All colleges that accept the SAT also accept the ACT. This is your test and your college admissions process, and you are in the driver’s seat! Empower yourself from the beginning by choosing the test that’s the better fit for you, and give the process your all!

Erika Oppenheimer is an SAT and ACT test prep coach and the author of Acing It! A Mindful Guide to Maximum Results on Your College Admissions Test. Using her unique “Test Prep for the Whole Person” methodology, she helps students from across the country reach their potential in the test room and in life. Download a free PDF of the first chapter of Acing It! here.

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