Students taking the PSAT in October will face an exam that previews the March SAT. In previous entries, I have explained the re-formatted exams and provided details about the reading and writing sections. This entry will focus on the two math sections of the exams; one will permit calculator use, and the other will not. This new non-calculator policy reflects the format of the Advanced Placement assessments.
The Official SAT Study Guide for the re-designed test provides the following statement: “A group of select mathematics skills and abilities contributes the most to readiness for a college education and career training. . . The three areas of focus are: Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math.” Along with computation skills, the math questions will require critical thinking. According to the introductory math chapter of the new SAT workbook, ” . . . questions will require conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application of mathematics in college and career contexts. . . .An essential idea in the relationship between fluency and conceptual understanding is observing structure.” In other words, the “plug and chug” method of arriving at an answer will be less possible with these exams.
Approximately 80% of the math questions are multiple choice, and 20% are gridded response questions. The test makers contend that every question on the test can be solved without a calculator. The total time allotted for the math sections on the SAT is 80 minutes for 58 questions. The calculator portion contains 38 questions in 55 minutes, while the non-calculator portion has 20 questions in 25 minutes. The tests include equations, word problems, charts, and graphs. The topics have the following representation on the SAT: Heart of Algebra-33%; Problem solving and Data Analysis-29%; Advanced Math-28%; Additional Topics-10%.
To perform well, test takers should have a solid understanding of these topics. Students who can identify specific areas for review and practice will certainly have an advantage when test time arrives. Handle Associates can help!