The College Board has been hard at work to create a new version of its old classic SAT, with the new test being unveiled at the March 2016 test date. The good news is that early-released test samples indicate that this new test should provide colleges an accurate read on student readiness for college level reading, writing and thinking.
The bad news for students is that these same test samples suggest that the new SAT will be the most difficult SAT yet, and tougher than the ACT. For starters, in the Reading and Writing section, the passages are more difficult than in any past SAT, resembling those generally found on the SAT Literature subject test. A new type of question relies on drawing evidence from correct answers on earlier questions, with the potential of a negative domino effect if a student gets the earlier questions wrong. While claiming to have reduced arcane vocabulary in favor of words used in college, challenging vocabulary words like arcane, partisan, and empirically remain.
The Optional Essay section no longer permits student to make up facts or draw from their own experiences to support a claim, but rather requires the studentto analyze how a writer uses logic, structure, and rhetoric to develop an argument. I suspect only the highly selective colleges will require this section of their applicants.
The new Math section presents the most challenge. No longer simply about “solving for x”, the new section tests the student’s ability to decode the problem and understand its various components. The new problems require more steps and will take more time to do. While more time is being allowed, it will be needed. On many problems, student will need to sift through extraneous information to distill the key data. Reading skills will be a big part of success in this section.
There will be a calculator-free section of the Math test which will require a different way of considering a math problem. The traditional approach won’t work.
The range of math on this test will be broader than in the past, asking that students know more definitions, equations, and math structures than before. Knowledge of Trigonometry, Planar Geometry, and more are tested.
While the College Board is allowing more time for the new SAT, the complexity of the test will easily absorb that time. Students will get, and need, more time per item.
The College Board will release the first complete, calibrated new SATs this spring, and a new Blue Book of practice tests will be available in the summer. It is possible that some students will avoid this tougher assessment and move to the ACT, while the more capable students may be up to the challenge the new SAT poses.
I will be encouraging clients who are currently sophomores to try both the new SAT and the ACT as early as possible, to determine which test feels most comfortable. Watch this blog for more information in the months to come!
Sarah Reese, Informed Educational Solutions
My thanks to Jed Applerouth, PHD for his article, “Advising Your Students About The New SAT,” from which the material in this blog was derived.