As someone who lives and breathes SAT and ACT prep as part of her job, it's tough to watch all of these gloom and doom stories in the media about the NEW SAT.
Some of the headlines include:
As if standardized testing isn't paralyzing enough for teens. Why do we have to make it that much worse?
So, despite the horror stories, here are four facts that should help calm the nerves of students and parents.
FACT #1: The SAT is changing. It isn't the first time and it won't be the last, but it isn't the end of the world as we know it.
Let's all take a deep breath and look at the history of the SAT and how despite all of these changes, millions of students were able to get through it, got accepted to college, graduated, and are now contributing members of society.
There were many versions of the SAT being given and the disparity between tests was causing problems for college admission counselors. In 1941, the test was "normalized" so colleges could more easily interpret the results no matter when the test was taken.
The first noteworthy changes were made since the 1941 test and it became the new norm.
To better represent what was being taught in the classroom, the College Board updated the test to reflect these changes.
To more closely align with the Common Core, the College Board switched up the test again.
Here's the short list of what's changing.
- There will be only two sections: evidence based reading and writing, and math
- Optional essay, requiring analysis of a document, with 50 minutes allowed
- No penalty for incorrect answers
- No more sentence completion questions testing obscure vocabulary
- Increased use of charts and graphs, even in the reading section
- Overall score will be 1600, with scores of 200-800 in reading and math, and a separate essay score; there will also be subscores in reading and math
So what does all of this tell us?
No matter what year or what version of the SAT a student took, some did well, some didn't, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the demise of their academic career or their life.
FACT #2: The jury is still out whether the NEW SAT is harder than the current SAT because nobody's taken it yet.
Those of you who took the NEW PSAT in October got an inside glimpse of what's to come and although there was a lot of banter and inside jokes in social media from students about the test, the jury is still out about whether it was the toughest test of the century or just another standardized test.
The Press of Atlantic City quoted students saying the test was longer but "less tricky" and closer to what they were covering in class.
While the Sacramento Bee reported that students thought the entire exam was difficult.
Truth is, just like previous SATs, some students will cut through it like butter while others struggle.
Just remember, after this year, this "NEW SAT" that has everybody up in arms will become simply the SAT that students have loathed for the past 90 years.
FACT #3: There ARE other testing options. You can take the ACT or only apply to test optional colleges.
We agree there is definitely uncertainty with the NEW SAT, but our recommendation at Testive is to take a practice test of both the ACT and the NEW SAT to see not only which test you perform better on, but also which test feels the most comfortable. You might find that the NEW SAT is a better fit no matter what is being said in the media.
And, more and more colleges are going test optional these days, you may not have to submit scores for either of these tests. It's your choice.
FACT #4: Effort is the key to success no matter what test you take.
Let's be honest! No matter what kind of test a student takes, they aren't going to do well if they don't study for it.
For the SAT or ACT, most students need focused prep to be able to get the score they need for the colleges they want to pursue. That doesn't mean just passively flipping through an SAT book every few days, it means concentrated effort for several weeks/months before the test. We recommend 100 hours of prep spread over 3-4 months.
Bottom line: The key to success on any test is to prep early, often, and hard to build a student's skills and confidence by test day. And then ... no matter what happens, everything will be just fine!