What students should know about the new SAT
March 7, 2014
This past week, College Board president, David Coleman, announced plans for a major SAT overhaul. The new SAT, which will be introduced in 2016, aims to realign with the “work of our high schools” and more accurately assess what students should be learning before college. Much of the commentary around Coleman’s recent announcement has been focused on how changes to the exam will impact colleges, high schools, and test prep providers. But what does a revised SAT mean for students, and how can they plan accordingly? If you’re college-bound and have yet to take the SAT, here’s what you need to know:
Lose the flashcards and pick up a book.
The College Board has finally decided to eliminate abstruse and outdated language from the SAT and instead feature words that students are more likely to encounter in college and the work place. Many words will look familiar, but their meaning will depend on context, and answering items correctly will often require strong skills in reading comprehension and interpretation.
Give yourself “APUSH.”
The new SAT will be littered with passages from the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and other Founding Documents, so advanced coursework in U.S. history could result in a better looking transcript and standardized test score. Enrolling in an honors or AP U.S. History (i.e., APUSH) course may also help students negotiate the exam’s new writing section, which will require that students analyze a passage and explain how its author uses evidence and reason to build an argument. The new essay will prove difficult for most test takers, but APUSH students should have a leg up, given their course of study.
Take a statistics course.
The redesigned math section will place primary emphasis on quantitative reasoning and real world applications. Test takers will be asked to analyze rates, interpret graphs, synthesize mathematical information, and make sense of patterns within a particular dataset—all of these skills are essential in today’s “big data” environment, regardless of profession, and should be acquired/developed during a statistics course.
Sample free test-prep, but still consider fee-based options.
In addition to redesigning the SAT, the College Board will also partner with Khan Academy, a leading online learning platform, to provide free test preparation services. With an excellent reputation, significant financial backing and access to actual test questions, Khan Academy should roll out a very sophisticated test prep program that will benefit students of all backgrounds. However, many will still yield advantages from the structure and individualized feedback that fee-based test-prep companies provide.
Don’t throw away those flashcards just yet.
If you’re a current sophomore or junior, prepare for the current SAT. Revisions to the standardized test will not become effective until March 2016, which means that current high school freshman will be the first affected. If you’re graduating in 2017 (or later), make sure that purchased test prep material and/or instruction accounts for the new exam.
For more information on the SAT redesign, please visit the College Board’s site.