Neil Chyten Analyzes Changes Coming to the New SAT

Neil Chyten lectures about SAT at Cambridge Center for Chinese Culture (file photo).

How can the name of a star help you master the New SAT coming in March 2016?

The New SAT Reading Test will have four single passages and one set of paired passages.  Each passage or pair will be 500 – 750 words in length and will be accompanied by 10-11 questions. There will be a total of 52 questions and students will have 65 minutes to finish. There are four distinct groupings (and several subgroupings) of question types that may be best learned by using the acronym: VEGA:

V = Vocabulary
E = Evidence
G = Graphics
A = Analysis

While certainly an oversimplification, the acronym VEGA serves well to remind you of the types of questions you’ll need to solve. Here is a detailed description of the question categories:

  • Vocabulary in Context

There are three types of “Vocabulary in Context” questions on the New SAT. The first type requires you to identify the meaning of a word or phrase based on its context in a passage. In many cases a word or phrase will have multiple meanings and the correct answer may be very different from your normal perception or understanding of its meaning. The second type asks you to identify how the meaning of a word shifts when used more than once in a passage. The third type asks you to identify how the author’s choice of words shapes the meaning or tone of the text, or gives clues to the author’s opinion, emotional attachment, or state of mind.

  • Command of Evidence

There are four types of “Command of Evidence” questions found on the New SAT. The first type asks you to draw conclusions based on evidence found in a passage. The second type asks you to cite specific portions of a passage that best support assertions made by, or conclusions drawn by, the author. The third type asks you to summarize content or key ideas or concepts found in reading passages. The fourth type asks you to extrapolate information found in a passage, and then to apply it to a distinct, or hypothetical, analogous situation.

  • Graphical Analysis

The New SAT’s “Graphical Analysis” questions require you to extract and/or interpret data found in one or more graphs, charts, diagrams, or figures, and to integrate that information with relevant information found in a reading passage in order to answer questions.

  • Specific Subject Content Analysis

The New SAT’s “Subject Content Analysis” questions ask you to use information found in a passage to answer questions pertaining to the topic of that passage. These questions can be either specific or general, pertaining to all or part of the passage. General questions are typically found at the beginning of a set of questions, and the remaining specific questions follow in the order of the passage. Subject Content questions will also ask you to identify relationships between individuals, events, concepts, or ideas. These relationships can include: cause and effect; similarities and differences; sequence or order.