Changes Are Afoot for the SAT

Yesterday it was announced that the SAT would be revising its test for the second time in just over a decade. To help you prepare for the next version of this popular standardized test, find here an outline of the changes plus other important announcements from The College Board that will impact future college admissions.

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What will the new SAT look like?

The new SAT, to be released in 2016, will feature four significant changes:

  • The SAT essay, introduced in 2005, will become an optional segment of the exam
  • SAT scoring, also changed in 2005, will return from the 2400- to the 1600-point system
  • Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers (currently students lose 1/4 of a point for each wrong answer)
  • And lastly, “SAT vocabulary” will become a thing of the past, as complete-the-sentence sections of the exam are replaced by ones that test students’ critical reading of a passage.

Why make these changes?

One thought that struck me when I read over these changes was that the SAT is increasingly becoming more like the ACT. The criteria are familiar: no deduction of points for incorrect answers, no required essay, and a significant critical reading section are all key points of the ACT that many students over the past decade have recognized as advantages to taking it over the SAT. So much so that gone are the days that the SAT is the go-to test; when I was a high school junior, nobody ever mentioned the ACT, but when I became a test-prep tutor five years later it was the exam 90% of my students elected to take. Why? When they were evaluated at the start of our course, the overwhelming majority performed better on the ACT than the SAT. It gave them a step-up in achieving a higher ranking, and as students’ favor of the test increased, colleges’ willingness to accept it on equal terms with the SAT followed suit.

For whatever reason, be it an attempt to curry more favor (and cash) or a genuine recognition of a need to assess students more fairly, the SAT is moving towards a format more similar to the ACT.

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What do these changes mean for students?

When I tutored students for the SAT, a significant focus of our preparation was on strategy. To perform well, one has to form a plan of attack, making a practical decision from the outset on how many questions would need to be answered to achieve the desired score. That’s because every wrong answer a student might give could decrease his or her overall score, thanks to the quarter-point deduction for an incorrect choice. Except for the cases where students strove for a perfect score, it was more advantageous to leave x number of questions blank.

Now, however, the idea of “SAT strategy” will be tossed by the wayside. Is this good or bad? Perhaps we should simply say it assesses a different skill. The SAT Reasoning Test, to go by its full name, was designed to test a student’s ability to reason and evaluate. In reality, though, this has meant that Read the rest of this entry »


Step Into Our Essay Lab

Looking for help on your latest essay or term paper?

eNotes’ Essay Lab is designed to cater to your every writing need. Search our list of tips to tackle the most common essay hurdles, or ask a question of our educators to receive specific help with your prompt, outline, or latest draft. It’s all explained in depth below!

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For many of you, midterms are approaching, which means so are the essays and term papers. If you struggle with writing it can be hard to get the specific help you need, especially from the comfort of your own home. Tutors are expensive, and teachers are often too busy to offer the one-on-one help you need when writing or proofing essay drafts. But at eNotes we’ve got you covered.

With our new and improved Essay Lab you can browse the most important writing tips for free, plus ask questions tailored to your very own essay using our Homework Help service. Let us walk you through this area of eNotes and show how it can help you to study smarter:

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eNotes Quizzes: Your Gateway to Study Smarter

Did you know? eNotes offers quizzes designed to test your knowledge on thousands of literature, history, science, and math topics. Check it out today to test your knowledge on everything from Animal Farm to Wuthering Heights!

Read on for a walk-through on how to find the quizzes you’re looking for, plus how you can earn a complimentary premium pass just by taking these quizzes.

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We now have over 950 quizzes to help you study a wide range of topics and works, and that number grows every day. What’s the best way to use them? Let us walk you through:

Head to enotes.com/quizzes for the day’s featured quiz, to create a quiz, or access Your Quizzes. You can find the lists of most popular and newest quizzes at the bottom of this page.

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Looking for quizzes on a specific work? Simply use the site’s search bar to find what you’re looking for. Once you’ve reached the study guide you want, click “More” on the guide’s navigation bar to Read the rest of this entry »


The High Cost of College

How to decide whether a four-year degree is right for you.

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In a post from May last year we pondered the question, should everyone go to college? And what might still be surprising to some, the answer was a resounding no. As eNotes editor and college professor Jamie described it then,

I believe anyone who wants an education should  pursue one. But I also see many incredibly gifted students who have skills that they are actively discouraged from mastering because they are supposed to have a Bachelor’s degree.  I see young people who have no real interest or desire to stay in school another four years who are miserable and many who are racking up debt when they could be doing something they enjoy, avoiding debt, and making money.

The prevailing opinion in America is that every student must go to college; if they don’t, they’ve somehow failed, or been failed by the system. Yet the cost of an American college education is among the highest in the world. So, if that college degree does you no favors in the job force, or if you drop out before completing your four years, you’re burdened with a mass of student debt to shoulder for the next twenty years.

That’s why it’s important to look at the costs of a college education, weighing out the pros and cons of each side and determining what’s right for you. If you plan to spend your life in academia, of course a university education is a necessity. But if you’d be better suited to a skilled trade, would the debt and time spent out of the workforce pay off? Here’s an excellent infographic from affordable-online-colleges.net to help you weigh your options. You might be surprised by what you find, like the high success rates of those who choose a two-year college over pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.

Read on and let us know your thoughts and questions!

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Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Branagh’s Macbeth is a Wonderfully Tempestuous Production

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For a brief week, the Seattle International Film Festival was able to bring Manchester International Festival’s production of Macbeth to the Uptown Theater in Seattle. As a part of a series called National Theater Live (which includes Othello with Adrian Lester and Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller), this production stars the illustrious Kenneth Branagh as the titular Scottish King. I was lucky enough to get tickets to see this thunderous play.

Co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford, the production was spectral, but appropriately stark. A lot of the eerie desolation came from the fact that it takes place in a deconsecrated Manchester church. The floors of the church were ripped out, so the stage was a pit of austere earth across which the witches skulked and the Scottish thanes clashed bloodily. Rain was poured unsparingly onto the actors. The dim lighting was the perfect harshness for this sinister play.

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Joseph Brodsky’s Reading List for Essential Conversations

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Nobel Prize-winning poet, essayist, and professor Joseph Brodsky

In 1972, poet Joseph Brodsky angered government officials in his native Russia and was expelled from the country.  With the help of fellow poet W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States, found a position at Yale and taught classes at Mount Holyoke as well.  Later, he accepted professorships at both Cambridge and the University of Michigan.  (Not bad for an autodidact!)

Of the many opinions Brodsky espoused to his students was that they could not carry on intelligent conversations unless they had done fundamental reading in what he considered influential texts. He passed out a list of these works to everyone in his classes.

Monica Partridge, a former student at Mount Holyoke recalls an early class meeting with Brodsky.  On the Brodsky Reading Group blog, Partridge wrote that

“Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation.  At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.”

Here are the books or works on that list. I’m proud to say that unless the conversation turns to “Icelandic Sagas” I could pretty well hold my own at a Brodsky cocktail party…

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New to eNotes: Annotated eTexts!

For a long time at eNotes, we’ve displayed eTexts on the site–entire works that anyone can access for free. But recently we’ve worked to make them even better. Welcome to our all new Annotated eTexts!

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What’s an Annotated eText?

Have you ever underlined words or made notes in the margins of your books while reading them? These notes help to re-familiarize you with a passage of text when you flip back through it, or draw out evidence that points to a novel’s main themes. Well, now those notes are made for you, and by the very same teachers who expertly answer your questions in eNotes Homework Help.

With real teachers and professors helping you with your homework, how can you go wrong?

How do I find them?

All of eNotes’ eTexts can be accessed by clicking the eText header link via any page of the site:

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Pick a work from over 120 Annotated eTexts on this list. A full list of all of our eTexts can be found here. Both lists are alphabetical.

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