With the announced SAT changes, many college bound students, parents, and counselors are understandably more angst-ridden than usual about the test and how to effectively prep for it. This, unfortunately, means that some less-than-scrupulous test prep companies will seek to take advantage of that concern to turn a quick profit. These companies are rushing to market with “the first prep guide for the 2016 SAT” that is “guaranteed to boost your score.” Hopefully we’ll be able to dispel some of the myth, rumor, and panic surrounding the new tests with a few reminders. So here is your quick guide to preparing for the new SAT:
This is the second part of a series on the new version of the SAT. College Board will roll out more changes over the next 18 months as we await confirmation on the final form of the exam. It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam. We have some good stuff. Did you miss the first installment? Check it out here)
Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone.
With the old SAT, the Reading part of the test consisted of Reading Comprehension, passages on various subjects with questions about theme, vocabulary, and other verbal concepts, and Sentence Completion, which required students to fill in the blank or blanks of sentences with the correct vocabulary words or words. On the current SAT, the Writing section of the test consists of one essay written from a specific prompt, and Improving Sentences, which ask students to read sentences and paragraphs, find the error, or identify the ways in which the sentences can be improved. The new exam will shift things around, as there will be a Reading Section, Writing and Language, Math, and an optional essay.
Let’s take a look at what’s new on “The Reading Test.”
This is the first part of a series on the new SAT that will be doled out over the next 18 months as we await more information on the final form of the exam. It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam. We have some goods stuff.)
Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone. Without further ado, here’s some of what’s coming and what we’ve concluded.
Following up on last month’s event, during which the College Board, amongst horse-drawn carriages and blaring bugles, expanded on the details for the coming changes to the SAT, which will be rolled out in 2016. On April 16th, College Board quietly dropped 208 pages of unanswered questions and teasers on the internet and the world. The first quarter of the tome lays out The College Board’s reasoning for changing the test (somehow without mentioning the words “market share”) and strategy on how to do so (somehow without saying “we copied the ACT.”) But let’s get to the useful stuff.
Today the College Board, with all due fanfare and a corresponding webcast watched by thousands, announced upcoming changes to the SAT, which will go into effect with the October 2015 PSAT and then the Spring 2016 SAT. During this hour long speech, not only did College Board president, David Coleman, announce changes to the SAT but he set the tone once again for the direction he is planning on taking the global multi-million dollar non-profit organization.
Since you can read in articles and newspapers across the internet the specifics of the announced changes to the SAT (a bunch of links are at the bottom), I thought instead to give you the benefit of my perspective on the impact of the changes by pointing out the winners and losers of the day (as I see it based on the information currently at hand which is admittedly incomplete).
First, let’s look at today’s winners:
Today's post is brought to you by one of our SAT teachers who recently took the SAT. We periodically send our teachers into the actual test to make sure we have the most current info on the test, the proctoring, and the experience so we can share that with those we're helping to prepare for it. While all of our teachers have taken the SAT in high school and have done many practice tests either at home or proctored in our office, the experience of going to a testing center always reminds us of what students actually go through. - Editor
- No matter how many hours-long written or oral exams you’ve taken in college, there is something uniquely tough about the length of the SAT. I think it has to do with the fact that you’re switching subjects and have such measly breaks.
- Students didn’t eat enough. I was the only one who ate anything at all during the breaks (thanks for the granola bars, mom!) and, more alarmingly, the only one who brought and drank water. Lots of kids did use the toilets, which you pretty much had to run to because they were so far from the classroom we tested in. Based on my experience, I’d advise peeing before the test and rehydrating during it, not the other way around.
- I was impressed by the alertness of the students. Nobody even seemed sleepy. I fear for when this tireless generation enters the job market. It is surprisingly easy to mis-bubble. I actually caught myself doing it three times (!) — two of them only because I was checking my work. Check your work, everyone!
- The room I tested in was freezing at first, but slowly shifted to 78-and-humid in the course of the test. I always advise students to wear layers to the test, so that they can adjust for any unexpected indoor weather, and I’ve never been more glad that I followed my own advice. By the end of the exam I was in a tee shirt, regretting my woolen long underwear.
- The general impression I had was that the students’ nervousness was a serious handicap to them. They all seemed jumpy and unhappy, and I can’t imagine producing a calm, logical essay if you felt the way they looked. Timed practice tests and going over old exams should make the test less intimidating, and being prepared to take the test more than once also helps reduce the pressure.
it helps to use the test booklet as scrap paper.
One of the questions we get asked a lot as teachers and tutors is “What’s the deal with the essay, anyway?” Interestingly, this question is asked by both SAT students and ACT students. Let me break it down for ya, fellas…
First the ACT and SAT prompts are very different. The ACT presents topics that students can easily relate to and have some familiarity with. The ACT topics are often about school or education. The SAT, on the other hand, presents prompts that are a bit more esoteric, obscure and arcane (see what I did there? ). Here are samples of each:
Another great word cloud with another great list of SAT words:
Since most colleges don’t require SAT Subject Tests (click here for our post on which colleges require the tests), most students will not need to take them. However, if you’re one of the lucky few students applying to one of the 160 colleges in the United States that require or recommend the tests, you’ll need to take them.
Which SAT Subject Tests Should You Take?
For most students, the answer to which Subject Tests to take is “the ones that you’ll do the best on.” Most colleges that require or recommend Subject Tests do not require or recommend a specific test. Instead, they require a particular number of tests (either 2 or 3) and leave the rest of the
decision-making to the student.
For those of you who are juniors, the HALCYON days of summer have come to an end and the dreaded year has begun. While you may be feeling DISCOMFITED or even TIMOROUS about the upcoming year, let us DISPEL the PERVASIVE rumors that junior year is necessarily going to be the BANE of your existence, presenting only INSURMOUNTABLE challenges. Although 11th grade can be stressful, you can DEVISE and IMPLEMENT a FEASIBLE plan to THWART the customary headaches of junior year.