The SAT that we have known and loved since 2005 is changing next year. The members of the class of 2017 are living on the standardized test bubble, straddling the old and new versions of the SAT. They will take the PSAT in October 2015 during their junior years. This test will be the first step in the revamping of the current SAT. It will mirror the changes set to take place in March of 2016. Then they will straddle the old and new formats in 2015-16, with four administrations with the current SAT format during their junior year- October, November, and December, and January 2016. Then they will have the new SAT in place for March, May, and June, as well as the fall tests senior year. Colleges will accept either the old and new SAT scores from this class. Some students will score higher on the current version of the SAT, some better on the 2016 test, and still others better on the ACT. Our Complete Prep course is designed to maximize scores on all three tests.
With the release of the College Board’s first complete practice PSAT in April, 2015, we got the first complete look at the new test. As has been the case when the SAT has changed in the past, the changes don’t seem to be as earth- shattering as first expected. The most notable cosmetic differences are that there is no longer a guessing penalty on the SAT, and instead of having 5 answers to choose from, there are only 4. The scale for the SAT is currently 600-2400. That will change to 400-1600.
The reading comprehension section no longer tests vocabulary through sentence completion questions. Some reading passages integrate charts and graphs which students are asked to interpret to answer questions. Some questions ask students to provide the evidence for the correct answer on a prior question. But many of the questions are virtually unchanged. All in all, definitely not a complete overhaul.
The preliminary information on the test redesign said that the reading comprehension section would include one document from the Founding Fathers- a piece of writing drawn from the history of America, or the “Great Global Conversation”, self-explanatory. There was no passage on the preliminary PSAT from the Founding Fathers, but there was one about the influence of the information age on the global economy.
Writing and Language Test
The Writing section of the current SAT will be replaced by the Writing and Language test in the future. This section had the most noticeable change from the current format- it basically morphed into the ACT English Test. The Writing and Language test is nearly a mirror image of the current ACT English test. The test now has a series of passages interspersed with questions that ask students to chose the most appropriate answer choice. For example:
One of the (1) big reasons behind workers’ lack of sleep is the work itself.
- NO CHANGE
- main things leading up to
- huge things about
- primary causes of
In addition to usage questions, the future SAT will ask rhetorical questions such as this one:
At this point, the writer is considering adding the following sentence.
Even fifteen-minute power naps improve alertness, creativity, and concentration. Should the writer make this addition here?
- Yes, because it demonstrates that the benefits of napping can be gained without sacrificing large amounts of work time.
- Yes, because it explains the methodology of the studies mentioned in the previous sentence.
- No, because a discussion of the type of nap workers take is not important to the writer’s main point in the paragraph.
- No, because it contradicts the writer’s discussion of napping in the previous sentences.
That the revised SAT Writing and Language Test is nearly identical to the ACT English Test will make it much easier in the future for students planning to take the SAT and ACT to prepare.
The change in the Math section will be a change in emphasis. It currently tests a wide array of math concepts with an emphasis on computational skills. Students can use a calculator on every question. It will still test a wide array of topics, but will have a concentrated focus on problem solving and data analysis, real-world problem solving accompanied by informational graphics, and more advanced Algebra which will require a better understanding of concepts. There will be one math section on the redesigned SAT on which student’s won’t be allowed to use calculators.
Fortunately for students trying to prepare for standardized tests, the tests are much more similar than they are different. Our belief is that because there are so many similarities among the tests, students should take the current SAT, ACT, and redesigned 2016 SAT and use the highest scores for college admissions. During the initial phase of the course, while they are in theory preparing for the SAT, students will learn concepts which will help them on the tests they’ll most likely take: the current SAT, the ACT, and the redesigned SAT coming in 2016. All three tests test reading comprehension, and the techniques for reading comprehension are virtually the same from test to test. All three tests test mathematical concepts and skills, which we review thoroughly along with strategies and techniques for answering the questions as efficiently as possible. All three tests test grammar skills, and we thoroughly review the grammatical mistakes that are most frequently tested.
After the initial summer classes are finished, students come to 2-week review classes which are in place throughout the school year before each test. Before the PSAT in October, our review will address the changes that will be reflected on the new PSAT. Before the December and January SAT administrations, our review will focus on the current SAT format. Before all of the ACT administrations during the year, the review focuses on the Science Reasoning section (which is unique to the ACT), and the subtle differences in the ways in which questions are asked. And before the March SAT going forward, the review will be geared to the future SAT.
The new SAT will require similar skills and test similar content to that of the ACT and current SAT. Many of the changes to the new SAT’s format will make it look a lot like the ACT, but the SAT will retain its focus as an aptitude test. Among the biggest changes to the SAT are a sharper focus on critical-thinking, an emphasis on real-world problems, a new scoring system, and an overhaul of the essay section. Overall, the redesigned SAT will place a bigger emphasis on problem-solving and understanding context. Comparatively, the ACT will remain more of an achievement test, requiring a broad knowledge of many concepts, as well as considerable speed and endurance.