College Board Releases The Official SAT Study Guide (2018 Edition)

When it was announced a couple years ago that changes were coming to the SAT, students, parents, and tutors alike wondered what the new test would look like, and whether it would be more or less difficult than its previous incarnation. Most importantly, however, we wondered how we would prepare our students for a test for which there were only 4 official practice tests. Luckily, that’s all changed now that the College Board has released its Official SAT Study Guide (2018 Edition), which contains 8 full-length, official practice tests. Tests 1 through 4 are the same four tests that the College Board released in its 2016 study guide, while tests 5 through 8 are brand new, and all of them were given as the official SAT during 2016 and 2017. So if you’re looking to prep for the SAT and want a solid idea of what to expect on the test, look no further than The Official SAT Study Guide (2018 Edition).

What the Study Guide Contains

In the new SAT Study Guide are 8 full-length practice tests, four of which are copies of SATs actually administered to high school students as the official SAT. Also included are detailed answer explanations, which explain why the correct answer to each question is correct and why each incorrect answer is incorrect. A few hundred pages at the beginning of the book are devoted to explaining the structure, format, and content of the test. Here are the main points:

Chapter 1 talks about how the SAT is developed, organized, and scored. The SAT is scored out of a 1600, with 800 points coming from Verbal (Reading and Writing and Language) and 800 points coming from Math (No-Calculator and Calculator). The Reading test is 65 minutes and has 52 questions. The Writing and Language test is 35 minutes and has 44 questions. The No-Calculator Math test is 25 minutes and has 20 questions. And the Calculator Math test is 55 minutes and has 38 questions. The optional Essay test is scored in three areas, Reading, Writing, and Analysis, with a maximium of 8 points available for each. There are also Cross-Test Scores and Subscores designed to provide students with additional information on how they handle Analysis in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science, as well as their facility with Expression of Ideas, Standard English Conventions, Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Passport to Advanced Math, Words in Context, and Command of Evidence. These subscores can help students learn which types of problems to focus on during their SAT prep journey. Chapter 1 also provides information about percentile rankings, additional SAT services, and score reports.

Chapter 2 gives brief advice on how to prepare for the SAT, stressing the importance of working hard in high school, practicing reading and interpreting complex texts, learning the rules and conventions of grammar and composition, and building a strong foundation of algebra and geometry. It also advises students to become closely acquainted with the structure, format, and content of the SAT, which to a tutor is a no-brainer. If you want to be prepared for the SAT, you should understand each and every question from The Official SAT Study Guide inside and out. You should be able to solve each question in about a minute and should be able to recognize similar questions from a mile away. If you know the book inside and out and know the concepts it’s testing, the SAT should be a breeze for you. Chapter 2 also mentions that Khan Academy and the SAT’s Daily Practice App are good resources to help you prepare. However, they’re not a substitute for working with an expert tutor! Finally, you learn what to bring to test day, as well as some test-taking strategies on how to pace yourself and deal with nerves.

Chapter 3 discusses Command of Evidence, a hugely important component of the SAT. The College Board wants to see that you can determine the best evidence in a passage for the answer to a question. It also wants you to be able to interpret data presented in graphs, tables, and charts. Finally, you’ll need to understand whether an argument makes use of evidence, and if so, how it does.

Chapter 4 contains some information about Words in Context. The guide says that the SAT focuses on “high-utility academic words and phrases,” meaning useful vocabulary that might be found in challenging reading across disciplines. It wants you to interpret the meaning of words based on context and to analyze authors’ word choices.

Chapter 5 covers the structure of the Reading test. You’ll have four single passages and one pair of passages, each with an average of ten questions. Each passage is 500 to 750 words. There will be one U.S. and World Literature pasage, two history and social science passages, one from a U.S. founding document or text in the Great Global Conversation, and two science passages. Questions will center around Information and Ideas, Rhetoric, and Synthesis. The Reading test will contain Command of Evidence questions, Words in Context Questions, and Analysis in History and Science questions.

Chapter 6 takes a look at Information and Ideas questions on the Reading test. Chapter 7 delves into Rhetoric questions, which focus on understand and analyzing the writer’s craft and strategies. Chapter 8 looks into Synthesis questions, which test your ability to compare and contrast passages and/or charts and graphs. Chapter 9 contains a variety of sample Reading questions.

Chapter 10 covers the Writing and Language test and explains the different types of questions it contains. The Writing and Language test has four passages, which you’ll need to proofread and edit. The two broad question categories on the Writing and Language test are Standard English Conventions (which test your knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and construction) and Expression of Ideas (which test your understanding of how to best convey information, including choosing the best version of a sentence, the right transition word, adding and deleting information, sentence order, and so on). Chapter 12 takes a closer look at Standard English Conventions and Chapter 13 contains a series of sample Writing and Language Questions

Chapter 14 covers the SAT essay, on which your task is to analyze how an author builds and sustains and argument using Evidence, Rhetoric, and Reasoning. It contains a series of sample essay passages as well as examples of low-scoring and high-scoring student essays.

Chapter 16 delves into Heart of Algebra and lists the topics with which students should be familiar if they want to succeed on the SAT. In particular, they want students to understand linear equations, inequalities, and functions in context, systems of linear equations and inequalities in context, and the relationships among linear equations, lines in the coordinate plane, and the contexts they describe.

Chapter 17 covers Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and explains what the SAT wants students to know with respect to that category, such as ratio, proportion, units, and percentages, interpreting relationships presented in scatterplots, graphs, tables, and equations, and data and statistics such as mean, median, mode, range, and standard deviation.

Chapter 18, Passport to Advanced Math, lists further skills students should have to succeed on the more advanced SAT math questions. These include handling operations with polynomials and rewriting expressions, quadratic functions and equations, exponential functions, equations, and expressions and radicals, solving rational equations, systems of equations, relationships between algebraic and graphical representations of functions, function notation, and interpreting and analyzing more complex equations in context.

Chapter 19 contains information about Additional Topics in Math, such as Geometry. You’ll to understand and feel comfortable working with lines and angles, lengths and midpoints, measures of angles, vertical angles, angle addition, straight angles and the sum of the angles about a point, properties of parallel lines and the angles formed when parallel lines are cut by a transversal, properties of perpendicular lines, triangles and other polygons, right triangles and the Pythagorean theorem, properties of equilateral and isosceles triangles, properties of 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 right triangles, congruent triangles and other congruent figures, similar triangles and other similar figures, the triangle inequality, squares, rectangles, parallelograms, trapezoids, and other quadrilaterals, regular polygons, circles, radius, diameter, and circumference, measure of central angles and inscribed angles, arc length, arc measure, and sector area, tangents and chords, area of plane figures, volume of solids, and surface area of solids.

Chapter 20 contains a variety of multiple-choice sample math questions, and Chapter 21 contains a variety of student-produced response (AKA “grid-in”) questions.

The main part of The Offical SAT Study Guide, however, consists of full-length practice tests, as well as detailed answer explanations for those tests.

How to Use the Official SAT Study Guide

If I were a student preparing for the SAT, I would make sure I understand every question in The Official SAT Study Guide inside and out. I might also take a couple of the tests as practice tests, taking care to follow exact time constraints. I would keep a detailed record of every problem that I missed, and I’d also take note of each missed question’s category to understand which types of questions I’m prone to missing and therefore should pay special attention to. I would analyze each of the Reading tests with an eye toward what types of passages are featured, and I would seek out similar texts in my studies and daily reading. I would also keep a vocabulary journal and look up every unfamiliar word I came across. On the Writing and Language test, I would make sure I understand the rules and conventions of grammar and that I’d be able to label each missed question with an “error category” that would allow me to understand what the question was testing and how to solve similar questions in the future. On the two Math sections, I would note which questions I struggled with, missed outright, or made a silly mistake on. I would also seek to understand several different methods for solving each question, and I would study the language and content of each question to recognize questions testing similar topics in the future. I would read and absorb the sample essays provided and make a list of rhetorical devices to look for when working with the passage on the Essay test.

If you are familiar with all of the concepts and topics listed above and are confident you could solve a tricky problem featuring any one of them, you’re ready for the SAT! If some of the topics sound daunting to you, or you need to brush up on your skills, you might benefit from working one-on-one with a perfect-scoring tutor who can diagnose your strengths and weaknesses and provide you structured instruction to better your grasp of the material and increase your score!

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