What to Expect From the Math Sections of the New SAT

                              By Dr. Christian Seberino

On March 5, 2016 students all over the country will take the new Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for the first time.  As this test significantly affects college admissions and scholarship opportunities, there is a widespread desire in the

homeschooling community to find out how students should prepare themselves for this change.


The focus of the subject matter has dramatically changed.  The intention is to more closely align the SAT with the math topics studies show are most prevalent in college.  There is an increased emphasis on linear equations, linear inequalities and data analysis.  There is a de-emphasis on geometry.  There is also a de-emphasis on the memorization of formulas and an

emphasis on real word problems.  Some advanced topics will be fair game for the first time including basic trigonometry and complex numbers.  See the College Board web site for a more detailed description of the topics covered.  In short, the material homeschool students study now will have to be


There will only be two math sections. One calculator section will be 55 minutes long with 38 questions. A no calculator section will be a 25 minutes long with 20 questions. The problems will still get progressively harder. In total there will be 45 multiple choice questions and 13 non-multiple choice questions.Furthermore, all multiple choice questions will now only have four answer 

The new SAT will not eliminate some problems I often see as a teacher who has taught SAT math workshops for several years with  
Suppose you had to calculate 5284 + 1978 + 3628 + 9114 + 35870.  If you 
were not conscious of the time, you might chose to slowly do the sum and 
check your answer a few times.  If you were time conscious, you might 
instead choose to try to find the answer as fast as possible.  Neither choice is
ideal for the SAT!  If you take too much time per question you will not finish the test.  If you rush you will make silly mistakes.  This will still be true on the 
new SAT.  One of the strategies I teach in my SAT math workshops is to 
learn to make good approximations.  Suppose instead of finding the exact 
answer to the above sum you found 5000 + 2000 + 4000 + 36000 = 47000.  Notice this can be done in your head in a few seconds and is immune to many silly mistakes someone desperately pushing buttons on a calculator is 
prone to make.  Homeschoolers are typically taught to be careful and 
methodical when doing math problems.  I often half seriously tell students that they need to learn some bad habits. 

Dr. Christian Seberino is college professor and a long timehomeschooler. He serves the homeschool community by providing freeand paid online math and physics classes year around at . He also provies affordable used microscopes to homeschoolers at He can reached via email at

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