In this blog, I’m going to talk about three ways that the digital SAT is changing the game from the paper SAT. Some of it is hard, but some of it is so easy that it feels like cheating.
Vocabulary is Back
Number one: the first thing that is different is that vocabulary is back. We used to see vocabulary on the SAT way back in the days when I was in high school. There used to be something called sentence completions. And for those sentence completions, you’d have to fill in the blank with a vocabulary word. So, this is a little bit different from how those sentence completions looked. We’re still dealing with vocabulary, but what makes the questions really hard is not the words themselves. I’m going to show you guys an example.
“Given that the conditions in binary star systems should make planetary formation nearly impossible, it’s not surprising that the existence of planets in such systems has lacked ______ explanation.”
So, I’m going to come up with my perfect word first, and then I’m going to keep reading to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. I would say “lacked any explanation.” So, any explanations are going to be far-fetched, weird, and crazy.
The end of the passage states: “Roman Rafikov and Kedron Silsbee shed light on the subject when they used modeling to determine a complex set of factors that could support planets’ development.”
So, these guys are shedding light on the idea that we have no idea what is going on and that there’s not a good explanation. So, that’s my perfect answer. And then I can go through the answer choices. We have “a discernible explanation,” which is okay. There is “a straightforward explanation,” and that is okay, too. There’s “an inconclusive explanation,” which is a double negative, and inconclusive isn’t close to “good” or “any.” So, I’ll get rid of it. Finally, we have “an unbiased explanation,” and bias is the idea that the people who came up with it have an agenda, which is awkward in this context. So, we get through those pretty quickly, but as you can see, this isn’t just about knowing what the word discernible means. Discernible means clear– that you can make it out. For example, saying that his writing wasn’t very discernible or that there were no discernible clues that the scientists could find. I don’t think the issue is that the explanations that exist are confusing; it’s just that we don’t really have a lot of explanations because the conditions make it nearly impossible. There is no straightforward explanation yet. It would make sense that if it’s nearly impossible for this to be true, the only way I can explain it is in some way that’s crazy and weird. So, just going off of this, straightforward seems to be a little bit better than discernible. Again, discernible works, and it’s not wrong. But the idea that it’s complex versus straightforward has a little bit more interaction in play than maybe between complex and discernible.
But as you can see, what makes this hard is not the word discernible; it’s the context. It’s the vibe of the passage, and it is a really hard question, but get ready because that’s what’s coming for you in the SAT.
Meaning is Also Tested, Not Just Grammar
Second thing: they’re suddenly testing whether “and” is an appropriate word to use or not. In past iterations of the SAT, they were usually just testing whether “and” was grammatically correct or not. But now they’re testing whether “and” is the right word to use. So, let’s look at an example question.
“The intense pressure found in the deep ocean can affect the structure of proteins in fish’s cells, distorting the proteins’ shape. The chemical TMAO counters this effect, ensuring that proteins retain their original configurations TMAO is found in high concentrations in the cells of the deepest-dwelling fish.”
I know that C is a run-on and B is a run-on, but A and D are grammatically correct. But I can’t just be looking at the grammatical correctness. I also have to think about what this “and” means. If I put the “and” in between the two words, that means TMAO ensures that TMAO is found in high concentrations. The “ensuring” would have to be distributed, so to speak, to both of those ideas. And TMAO isn’t ensuring that it itself is found in high concentrations in fish. That doesn’t make any sense and is not logical. So, these two things aren’t parallel, and “ensuring” can’t be distributed to both of them. And so this “and” creates a train wreck of confusion.
So, you have to know if the “and” is being used correctly or if the “however” means the right thing when the comma is in one spot or another. You have to actually be looking at meaning, and that’s a little bit new and is coming out in ways that I haven’t seen before. So, keep your eye out, not just for the grammar but also for the meaning.
The old test used to do this a lot with context, and that’s how they complicated it beyond just the grammar. They wanted to know the meaning, but it was across sentences. And here, it’s within the sentence; for example, how that “and” is functioning in the sentence. It’s interesting how they’ve sort of pivoted, but that’s new, so beware.
Third point: you can DESMOS anything in the math section. You have full reign of DESMOS, and this is totally different from the no calculator section on the current SAT. The current SAT was really big on making sure that you knew your math, and you couldn’t just hack your way through with a calculator. Well, there are questions on this version of the SAT that are super easy with DESMOS. Spoiler alert: this next question is a question from Practice Test 2.
You can see in the video that there’s a system of equations. We could just graph the two, and then you could just zoom in on their point of intersection. By doing that, I can verify that it’s on both lines. So, you can see how I can just do this super fast and super easy and then subtract them from each other to get the answer. And there are lots of other questions where you can just solve them by graphing. So DESMOS is a very powerful tool, and there are a lot more hacks with DESMOS, and I might get into some of those in future videos, so make sure you subscribe to our channel.
I hope you guys found this helpful in showing a few of the differences between the current SAT and the digital SAT!