SAT Reading, known at one time or another as Critical Reading or just plain Verbal, has transformed dramatically over the decades. Who could forget such classic question types as Analogies or Antonyms?
But the new SAT will continue the College Board’s attenuated move from testing vocabulary to testing passage-based reading. Sentence Completions, the last vocabulary intensive question type, are being relegated to the dustbin of flashcard history. With their removal, the SAT Reading Test will focus entirely on the assessment of specific comprehension and reasoning skills in relation to appropriately challenging passages across a range of content areas:
- Emphasis on words in context
- Emphasis on command of evidence
- Inclusion of informational graphics
- Specified range of text complexity
Numbers 1 and 2 on this list are nothing new, but this redesigned SAT will be testing these concepts more rigorously. Number 4 won’t matter much to students but may be of interest to the consumers of student test scores: admissions officers and educational administrators. Number 3, on the other hand, is interesting for a couple of reasons.
The dirty little secret in test prep (at least one of them) has been that ACT Science is not really a test of science, but rather reading. Students need to bring very little science knowledge to the exam. Instead, they need to be able to understand text, graphs, tables, and charts based on a variety of science topics. This new SAT Reading Test riffs on that testing philosophy by incorporating the informational graphics into science and social studies passages. Test takers may not mind this; in our area, at least, students seem to be well-prepared to work with graphs, tables, and charts.
(From Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT)
WHAT’S THE SAME?
This portion of the SAT still tests a suite of passage-based reading skills across a variety of independent and paired passages.
Students won’t be sorry to see Sentence Completions gone. Also absent from the new SAT are the short passages. The main addition to the new Reading Test will be graphs, tables, and charts as part of select passages. Also new, but perhaps opaque to test takers, will be a continuum of text complexity. Some passages will be more complex, which presumably will mean more challenging to read than others.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
This new test marks the end of an era: with a new emphasis on practical vocabulary in context, students won’t need to stress so much about “SAT words” though certain classes of words still matter. Reading for thesis will matter more than ever.
The SAT Reading Test looks like a hybrid of the ACT Reading and Science Tests. Most students will be happy to trade tough vocab words for simple graphs and tables.