by Andrea Downing Peck
Do you have a college-bound student who is planning to take the infamous SAT in spring 2016? If so, he or she will encounter a redesigned exam that has undergone sweeping changed. It may cause students to rethink how they prepare for the all-important admissions exam.
The College Board is overhauling the exam that is taken by more than 1.6 million students each year, to make it more closely align with what is being taught in high school classrooms, and to better assess the skills needed for college and career success.
The redesigned SAT will be administered for the first time in March 2016. The test will include two required sections – math and evidence-based reading and writing – plus an optional essay. The new test will take three hours (without optional essay) instead of the current three hours and 45 minutes. Calculators will be allowed during only a portion of the math section.
A “perfect” score will return to the familiar 1,600-point scale, with the reading and math sections scored from 200 to 800. Students also will receive “cross-test scores” showing how they preformed in science and history/social studies.
College Board chief of assessment Cynthia Schmesier says the goal was to create a test “focused on the knowledge and skills [that] research tells us are absolutely essential for college readiness and college success.”
The Costco member explains, “We want it to be useful, so when students encounter this exam they see the applicability not only to their schoolwork in high school but also to what they are interested in pursuing in college and a career.”
TESTING OVERVIEW - Among the highlights of the redesign:
- The reading and writing sections will include questions that require students to cite evidence for their answer choices. Contents of prose passages may include careers, history/social studies, humanities or science and may be paired with informational graphics.
- Students no longer will be asked to complete sentences after memorizing SAT vocabulary words, but will have to understand more common words in extended contexts.
- The math section will focus in depth on algebra and problem-solving and data analysis, with some advanced math questions. Students will be required to solve problems in science, social studies and career-related contexts.
- A passage from United States founding documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers) or a text from the global conversation will be included on every exam.
- The quarter-point penalty for wrong answers has been eliminated.
- An optional essay will focus on analyzing a source text. The essay prompt will remain constant; only the passage analyzed will change on subsequent exams.
The College Board is offering options beyond the test-prep industry through free online Khan Academy test-prep videos, practice tests and other tools at collegereadiness.collegeboard.org and publishing a new study guide for the redesigned SAT.
“We’re trying to give kids all the information they need before they go into the test so they know what to expect, but we also want to help them strengthen their college readiness skills if their PSAT (preliminary SAT) test scores show them things they need to work on,” Schmesie says.
Despite the College Board’s new transparency, veteran tutor Akil Bello, director of strategic initiatives at The Princeton Review, expects test preparation to remain an important ingredient in student success.
“Preparing for the STA is much like joining a baseball team and asking if you should get a coach,” says Bello, a Costco member. “A coach may not turn the New York Mets into a championship team, but having a coach is better than not having a coach. Practicing is better than not practicing.”
THE OLD AND THE NEW
While incoming high school sophomores will take the revised PSAT in October, rising juniors have a choice between taking the “old” SAT this fall and winter or the redesigned exam in March.
“Whether junior prepare for the [old] version of the SAT or the new-as-of-2016 version, it is still the first time they’re preparing for an SAT,” Bello says. “Prepare for it and do the best you can, get the help you can, and you will improve your performance and maximize your score.”
The Costco Connection, July 2015.