Fast Facts: New SAT Test

The Standardized Achievement Test (search) has gotten an overhaul. Beginning this month, college-bound students will be taking a new longer test. Following are key changes reflected in the new exam:

Math: Quantitative comparisons, which used to count for 25 percent of the math score, are gone. There will be a handful of higher-level, algebra II questions, though it should be material students have covered by 10th grade. Concepts like function notation and exponential growth will be introduced, and there will be more emphasis on graphs and interpreting visual data.

Critical Reading: This is the new name for what used to be called the verbal portion of the test, but there will be changes. Vocabulary will be de-emphasized with the end of analogies, though it could still be important in reading comprehension questions (for example, "In line 2, what does the author mean by the word ... "). Also new are comprehension questions on shorter passages, or pairs of short passages, besides the traditional longer ones.

Writing: This section is entirely new and will produce a separate score on the 200-800 scale (students will get one such score each for math, critical reading and writing; a perfect score is now 2400). But the essay will count for only 30 percent of the writing score, with 49 multiple-choice grammar questions determining the rest. The multiple choice questions will ask students to identify errors, and the best ways to improve sentences and paragraphs.

— Sample Essay Question (courtesy The College Board): Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and assignment below:

A sense of happiness and fulfillment, not personal gain, is the best motivation and reward for one's achievements. Expecting a reward of wealth or recognition for achieving a goal can lead to disappointment and frustration. If we want to be happy in what we do in life, we should not seek achievement for the sake of winning wealth and fame. The personal satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward.

Sample Assignment: Are people motivated to achieve by personal satisfaction rather than by money or fame? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.