What it was like to take the SAT

Getting Started

I took the exam at Irvine Valley College.
Unlike most schools, whose administrators post classroom assignments on a billboard, IVC showed up around 8:15, had students stand in the quad, and verbally had students split into separate groups like cattle. Then students ended up having to walk down a confusing pathway to a classroom, where we had to have our IDs checked one-by-one. You can tell which schools have the check-in process down, and which schools need to work on it. IVC is definitely a school that can stand to be more efficient.

Once in the room, the proctor had difficulty with the test set-up process. She was unaware of the fact that there were now three components that come with the exam. It used to be that there was just a test booklet and an answer sheet. Now, with the revised exam, there is an essay booklet as well. I don’t think that she was supposed to hand out the essay booklet at the beginning of the administration, especially because it wasn’t sealed.

All-in-all, the exam didn’t start until about 9:00am, almost an hour after most administrations start.
For students who value efficiency and timeliness, I would recommend that you stay away from Irvine Valley College (as well as UCI) when taking the SAT.

Reading Comprehension:
I was intrigued to see that there was a variety of reading passages. Similar to the old exam, there was still prose fiction as well as a persuasive essay, but I also read a coupe essays about topics that were much more contemporary and relevant to today’s students.

In addition, some of the contemporary passages required a new level of data analysis. As College Board promised, there were questions that asked students to analyze graphs (akin to ACT science). Interestingly enough, though, these data was paired with passages that were more argumentative in nature. Furthermore, the evidence used within these passages was more quantitative in nature. I wish I would be more specific, but I do not want to incur the wrath of College Board for sharing classified test questions. I can say this though. It used to be that the passages used rhetoric strategies to try to convince the reader of a certain argument. Now, it seems some of the passages will build their arguments using data, research, and analysis of that research.

From the perspective of a teacher, I view this as promising as most students will be required to utilize this skill at some point in college. Most majors require some type of statistical analysis as well ability to dissect a modern-day argument. The range of reading material is more varied and, in my opinion, less esoteric in nature.

There was still a level of trickiness to the new exam. There is a new question type: the evidence-based question (i.e., “Which line best supports the answer to the previous question”). This type of question requires students to not only answer a question but also select a line reference as justification for choosing the previous answer.
For example.
1. What does the passage suggested about the authors feelings about candy:
A. He hates it
B. He likes it
C. Candy punched him in the face
D. He has a deathly fear of candy

2. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

A. Lines 1-2
B. Lines 3-10
C. Lines 11-12
D. Lines 39-60

At times, I looked for a certain answer but couldn’t find it. After reading the line references, I realized that the idea that I was searching for wasn’t even included among the answer choices. Eventually, I reached a certain rhythm answers these questions. However, after going back to check my answers, I realized that although there were about 5 or 6 questions that were started with the phrase “Which choice provides the best evidence…” not all of them referenced the previous question. I had seen line references in the answer choices and assumed that they referenced the previous question.

It has always been my firm belief that the SAT grammar is just the sibling to the ACT English section. After taking the test, my conviction has not wavered. Except for a couple small nuances, the fundamental components of both tests were quite similar – I saw many of the same question types, and the structure of the tests were quite similar.
However, one of the major distinguishing components that still distinguishes the SAT from its counterpart is the wording. The majority of the grammar portion I found quite simple. However, a couple questions I did find a bit weird due to strange word choice/diction.

Non-Calculator Math
I have always found calculators a crutch to most students, so I am happy with the addition of the SAT Math without calculator. Strangely enough, even though the practice tests have indicated that they have ventured into more advanced topics, there wasn’t anything particularly advanced that caught my attention. I don’t remember having to deal with any trigonometry questions and I don’t necessarily remember having to answer questions that involved advanced pre-calculus topics.
The one thing I did not about this section was that having the ability to graph equations to solve visually was something that helped me check my work.

Calculator Math
Here, I found myself having to solve problems that I would in real life. Just in general, I would say that the questions have veered toward multi-step, intricate algebra problems. For a couple of the problems, I found myself having to do five or six different steps to arrive at the answer.

In general, I was really pushed to work on problem solving and really understanding what an equation means. My firm belief is that most math students survive high school math by memorizing formulas one after the other. The SAT question combats that by asking questions that push students to understand what a graph, table, or equation really represents. Very few questions were as straightforward as they are on the ACT. The content matter is relatively straightforward; the applications, though, are quiet challenging.

The other part that I found a bit unnerving was the rounding of decimals. Some of the questions ended up not being as “clean” as some math problems are. I ended up with weird decimals and then had to round to the nearest whole number. While I’ve had to do that in the past, something about this format bothered me.

The Essay
This new essay was quite fun to write about. I think that I had such a difficult time with AP English Language as a Junior, that I am so much happier writing this essay as an adult. I loved being able to analyze his technique in writing and I am curious to see how my essay turns out.
Oh. I got a 1600.


Very engaging post. There are many things to consider about taking the ACT or the SAT, right from the time of registration all through one's test prep and the actual test day. More so after getting the scores. Your blog is very helpful, and the insights you provided are enlightening and motivating. Studying in a public class and hiring a mentor/tutor for the ACT/SAT can be augmented by a credible and updated online study guide. In Test Prep Toolkit, learners can have fun while prepping for their test through online classes, practice tests and tips and tricks articles. Thanks for the useful information!


Joey L.

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