Many of you may not know what Section 5 of the multiple choice of the SAT® is. Don’t fret! In this blog we’re going to talk about what is the fifth section on the SAT®. We’re going to answer four questions: What is it? Who gets it? Does it count? Should I make an effort it?
What is it?
It is a 20 minute section that allows for the inclusion of “pretest items” on the exam that you’re taking. Pretest is a fancy word that the College Board uses that means experimental questions – questions that the College Board hopes to include on future SAT® exams. They use the data they collect from students trying out those test items to ensure that the questions are fair and adequate. You, the student taking the SAT®, are going to get one of the four types of material (reading, writing & language, math, math with calculator) and take a section of that in that 20 minute period. Note that you can get a different section than the person sitting next to you.
Who gets this test?
Right now, pretty much everybody gets it. As of March 2019, the College Board is now giving experimental test items to everyone who takes the test on national test dates. Before that date, the experimental test items were given only to students who weren’t taking the optional essay portion. They may have done away with that given that the most highest achieving students usually take the essay. That being said, there are some test takers who don’t have it and it is possible that on any given day that you take the exam that your particular test center will not have experimental questions.
Does it count?
Of course the College Board doesn’t want you to think that this fifth section doesn’t count because they want you to actually make an effort on it. If students were told that the section doesn’t count, then they would get back blank answer sheets, not allowing them to get the data they need in order to try to figure out whether future test question items are similar in difficulty to test question items that you have on your exam. As a result, their official messages to proctors and guidance counselors states, “Both pretest and operational items may be on any section of the exam.” This kind of a vague statement creates confusion, in typical College Board way, and leaves students to wonder where these problems may arise. It would be easy for them to swap out problems in the math section but the difficulties begin when considering how they would go about implementing the problems in the reading and the writing & language sections. The timing of each section is different and the swapping of entire passages would be unfair by giving some students more time. The widespread confusion among students, proctors, and guidance counselors can only be resolved if the College Board begins to be transparent.
Should I make an effort?
We believe you should make an effort for three reasons:
– The College Board may use the fifth section to flag cheaters
– You’re helping the College Board make a fair test
– It could count in the future