SAT: Evidence-Based Writing, Essay & NEW PSAT

JohnNEW SAT ACADEMY: Lesson 11

Testive Head of Learning, John LaPlante, walks us through sample questions from the Evidence-Based Writing section, provides insight on the essay, and shares what Testive is planning for the NEW SAT & NEW PSAT in coming months.

Evidence-Based Writing Overview

The College Board has changed the writing section quite significantly—it now looks a lot like the ACT English test.

What this means is that they have eliminated the use of three question types (improving sentences, error identification, improving paragraphs). Instead, students will be given four passages of 400‐450 words that they need to improve. Students will need to be able to recognize grammatical errors and correct them as illustrated in the sample question below.

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Another differentiator from the current SAT is that at least one of these passages will contain informational graphics, such as a table, and will require students to make connections between the table and the content of the passage. Essentially, students will need to decipher the table to be able to answer the question. So it is not only a writing question, but will also be included in the social sciences subscore.

In addition, students will be asked to improve a passage by eliminating or adding entire sentences—similar to the paragraph improvement questions on the current SAT. This will gauge a student’s ability to write well.

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Scoring for the Evidence-Based Writing Section

Students will receive a combined score for the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing sections of the test.

The Evidence-Based Writing section will have four passages with 11 questions in each passage for a total of 44 questions. Students will get a subscore for Standard English Conventions (grammar & usage) and Expression of Ideas. So, even though there will be just one combined score for the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing sections, colleges will see all of the subscores as illustrated in the chart below courtesy of the College Board website.

The test is 35 minutes long so students need to move somewhat quickly since they need to answer about 1.25 questions per minute.


The Essay: Who Should Complete it?

Although nobody has really seen an example of the essay yet, we do know that it is now optional just like the ACT. With that said, many colleges require students to complete the essay if they take the ACT, so we can only imagine the same will hold true for the NEW SAT. The best way to know for sure is to review the application guidelines of the schools you’re interested in applying to.

However, we recommend that everybody completes the essay. You’re already there, it might work in your favor, and if not, you don’t need to report the score if you don’t want to.

The College Board allows 50 minutes for students to complete the essay and it’s based on a historical document, like a famous speech or the Declaration of Independence. Students will be given a prompt for the essay and need to use evidence from this document to support their position.

Scoring for the Essay

The way the essay is scored is different than the current SAT. It will be reviewed looking at three criteria; reading, analysis, and writing. Two people will read your essay and give it a score of 1-4  for each criteria. Those scores are combined to give you a total score out of 24 possible points.

What Testive is Doing to Get Ready for the NEW SAT

Currently, Testive has over 1,000 questions and by the end of the year we’ll have ramped up to close to 3,000 questions—similar to what we currently have for our ACT and SAT platforms.

We will definitely be ready to help that first round of students prepare and excel on the NEW SAT when it’s launched in March 2016.

What’s Changing for the NEW PSAT?

There will be a few changes for the NEW PSAT as outlined below. However, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it is just a better representation of what to expect on the NEW SAT minus the essay.

Here’s what to expect:

  • The test will be 2 hours 45 minutes vs. 2 hours 10 minutes for the current PSAT.
  • Students will be scored on a 320-1520 scale (2 sections scored on 160-760 scale, plus many subscores)
  • There will be 139 total questions vs. 125 on current PSAT
  • It is unclear what score will be necessary to be a National Merit Scholar, but it will most likely be 1,400 or above

What Testive is Doing to Get Ready for the NEW PSAT

Testive has a full-length PSAT practice test available online to help students prepare for the PSAT. To make sure your child is ready for the NEW SAT, we recommend scheduling a call with one of our student success advisors to discuss which coaching package is best for your child.

Happy prepping!

Download our FREE eBook – NEW SAT: Everything You Need to Know to have all of this content in one place. You can also watch our pre-recorded webinar The NEW SAT What it Means for YOU & Why it Matters. 

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