The 5 Big SAT Changes You Need to Know

satHigh school freshmen and sophomores will take a new version of the SAT in 2016. Here’s a run-down of what they can expect and how to prepare.

Last month, we covered in depth what you could expect from the new SAT coming in 2016 (in a post you can read here). But now that the changes to this 88 year-old exam are making the media rounds once more, we wanted to take a quick minute to recap the biggest adjustments, and hopefully provide some clarity in the process.

So, here are the 5 big changes to come to the SAT in two years’ time:

  • No more SAT essay! The essay section will become optional
  • No more “SAT words!” The test will quiz students on “relevant” words instead of obscure ones
  • No more point deductions for incorrect answers! Which means no penalties for guessing
  • Fewer questions! The test will shrink from 171 to 153 questions (52 in reading, 44 in writing and language and 57 in math)
  • And lastly, the 1600-point system will return making the 2400-point test a mere blip in the radar for a select few

But before you jump out of your seat with joy, future high school junior, you should read our in-depth analysis of the changes and how they’ll affect your test-preparation here. Just because $5 SAT words are out, doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn strategy to handle unfamiliar vocabulary. AND just because the SAT essay will be optional does not mean you shouldn’t take it.

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In essence, the SAT is going to look almost identical to the ACT, so the best way to prepare for these changes is to look into its counterpart. In fact, more and more colleges regard the ACT as equal to the SAT, though students tend to score better on the former than the latter. Which leads one to wonder, why are we still placing so much emphasis on the SAT? Our advice: take both and go with the test you’re better suited to.

Have questions about either standardized test? Or thoughts on the changes? Leave us a comment and we’ll help you with your test-prep!


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 »


Spring Survival Tips for the ACTs and SATs

High school students, it’s that time of year again… Exam time! Oh joy of joys. To assist you in this hour of need, we’ve got a few tips to help you out on the ACT and SAT exams that are fast approaching, along with some important dates and deadlines to help you stay on track.

Have a question regarding either exam? Post it in a comment and we’ll answer it for you ASAP!

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Important Dates: If you’ve already registered for the next test, it’s just around the corner on May 7th. If you haven’t yet taken the test this Spring, you should register for the June 1st test date by May 7th. Head to collegeboard.org to register online asap.

Study Materials: The College Board site is a veritable treasure trove of helpful links. Nobody should go into the exam without becoming very familiar with it–and that includes much more than taking the PSAT in your junior year. One extremely useful page is the SAT Study Plan area. This is your homepage from where you can navigate practice tests and questions, as well as tips on various sections of the test. What’s even better is that it is completely customizable; those of you who have never taken the test before will see different content than those who have taken the SATs at least once. Plus, for those in the latter category, there’s even a page where you can get even more personalized feedback based on your PSAT scores. You can check that page out here.

Of course, purchasing a physical study book is always a bright idea. The upside of the College Board SAT support site, though, is that it has all the helpful strategies, tips, and practice tests you’ll find in a book, with the added benefit of being free and only a click away. Maximize your time by receiving the SAT Question of the Day by email—you’ll be studying every day without even realizing it.

Finally, here’s one really helpful study material you might not have heard about… SAT Vocabulary Novels. If you struggle with the SAT Vocab section, as most students do, the absolute best way to expand your vocabulary is by reading. Seeing words in their context is infinitely more helpful than memorizing definitions on flashcards. It also ensures that you remember those words for far longer. The SAT Vocabulary Novel series contains books of all genres, all geared towards teens. Take Rave New World, for example, a futuristic dystopian novel about love and addiction. These books intersperse the most popular SAT words throughout, then highlight them with definitions at the bottom of the page. Really useful stuff to get you familiar with that intimidating SAT lexicon, and way more riveting than the dictionary.

Read the rest of this entry »


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