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A closer look at the redesigned SAT reading section

Student center at SOU
Student center at SOU
Cathy McMeekan

Students across the globe will proclaim “Hurray!” when they realize they will no longer have to battle with the sentence completion questions on the redesigned SAT. This format of questions has long been a staple of the vocabulary testing on the SAT, but like the analogies that were dropped years ago, now the sentence completion questions will fall by the wayside. Students will no longer have to try to memorize hundreds of words that are seldom used in their daily school or home life. Instead the SAT reading section will focus on more common language used in text.

Of all the sections of the new SAT, the reading section now called “Evidence-based Reading and Writing,” will be changing the least. The sentence completion questions only comprised about thirty percent of the scoring in the current SAT so their demise affects only a small amount of the scoring. However there will be new formats of questions introduced and changes to test timing. The current version of the SAT has three reading sections that are 25 minutes in length or less. The new SAT will have only one reading section that will be one hour and five minutes in length and consist of only four passages and one paired passage that students will use to answer the questions.

This new longer section might prove a challenge for those who have difficulty focusing for long periods of time or who find reading and comprehending large passages a challenge. The new style of questions will also require students to use evidence to support their answers, decipher the definition of words that can have different meanings based on context, and evaluate tables, graphs and other sources of information that support the passages they are reading.

The content of the questions will focus on the student’s ability to understand words in context, command of evidence, analysis in history and social science, and analysis in science. A new type of question will ask them to select a quote that best supports a previous answer they have given in response to a reading passage. In some questions they will also be asked to look at a graph or other data and then make appropriate choices so the reading passage best reflects the data. Questions now will ask students not to just point out the errors but to offer revisions to the passages. The reading passages comes from published literature and non-fiction, history, science and social sciences and also focuses on materials found in college majors and careers in an effort to make the texts more relevant to the students.