04 Apr 2014

A Preliminary Look At The New SAT


A little over a month ago, there was an article in the New York Times about the new SAT. The story caught on all over Facebook and parents came to me concerned about what this meant for their children. What was surprising to me was that this new SAT story became viral. If you do a search on the internet, you’ll see that many people have been aware of this upcoming change for years now. Even when I was an educator with The Princeton Review, I was told that changes to the SAT would come any day now. I’m sure the curriculum directors at Kaplan and other major American test-prep centers knew about this change too. However, it seemed that the NYT only recently caught on and with the article, the rest of the world has come to know about the changes too.

I bring up the prior knowledge of changes to the SAT to make a major point – we at YPrep Academy are aware of the upcoming changes to the SAT and we will be ready when the changes do occur. As of now, the new SAT will first be administered in spring of 2016. Thus, the first group that should worry about the new SAT would be the current Freshmen (Class of 2017). The College Board seems to be revealing the new SAT test piece by piece. As such, I’ll be developing a curriculum for the new SAT as I see the pieces. I have spent many years learning about, taking, and teaching standardized tests from the SAT all the way to the GMAT. The beauty (and problem) of standardized tests is that they are all iterations of the same style. There will always be a way to prepare for them. As a boutique SAT program, YPrep Academy can adapt much quicker than big companies like The Princeton Review or Top Scholars.

While example questions on the new SAT have not been fully revealed yet, a blueprint for the new design is already on the College Board website. Below is a preliminary look at the new SAT. There are a good deal of changes, but here are the most notable:

  • The new SAT will be offered in print, and in some locations, on a computer as well. My guess is that the College Board probably wants to eventually transition to digital format like the GRE (also administered by the College Board). The only argument against doing so completely is that it could restrict access to low-income students as they might not have access to practice computers.
  • The essay is optional and the style has changed. It seems to me that it is similar to the Argument Essay from the GRE.
  • The test is now out of 1600. The two sections appear to be the Math Section and an “evidence-based” combined Reading and Writing section.
  • There will no longer be obscure vocab words (which I think is good), but you have to back up your reading answers with “evidence” (which I find silly and dangerous – reasons I’ll provide in future posts)
  • The Math section will be more focused and have more data analysis.
  • Every test will have passages from either America’s Founding Documents (Declaration of Independence, etc) or from ongoing Great Global Conversation about freedom, justice, and human dignity. This part will be a bit disconcerting for international students. I wonder if/how The College Board will deal with it.

There are many more changes, so take a look below. One word of caution. I have previously seen the SAT changed from the 1600-point version to the 2400-point version. I have also seen the changes in the GRE. From those examples, I can tell you that any changes ETS (company behind both tests) says it might make is not concrete. Between now and the first day of the new SAT, many other changes might occur. In fact, the first day of test administration might even change. So take all announcements with a grain of salt. I’ll be following closely and reporting all I know in future posts. And as always, if any of you have questions, feel free to post in the comments below or ask me in person.

Current SAT Redesigned SAT
Reading and writing sections do not require students to cite evidence. Students select answers to demonstrate their understanding of texts but are not asked to support their answers. Evidence-based reading and writing. Students will support answers with evidence, including questions that require them to cite a specific part of a passage to support their answer choice.
Source documents do not represent a wide range of academic disciplines. While many different types of text might appear on any SAT, there is no requirement that students encounter scientific or historical sources. Source documents originate from a wide range of academic disciplines. On every SAT, students will encounter source texts from science, history, and social studies, analyzing them the way they would in those classes.
Vocabulary focused on words that are sometimes obscure and not widely used in college and career. These words, while interesting and useful in specific instances, often lack broad utility in varied disciplines and contexts. Vocabulary focused on words that are widely used in college and career. The exam will focus on words such as synthesis and empirical whose specific meaning depends on the context.
The essay measures students’ ability to construct an argument based on their background and experiences. Since students are not given source material, there is no way to verify the accuracy of their argument or examples The essay measures students’ ability to analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience.  Responses will be evaluated based on the strength of the analysis as well as the coherence of the writing.
Math section samples content from a wide range of high school-level math. There are often only one or two questions on each topic and students need to cover a great deal of math to be prepared for all topics. Math section draws from fewer topics that evidence shows most contribute to student readiness for college and career training. Students can study these core math areas in depth and have confidence that they will be assessed.
Calculator permitted for full math section. It is difficult to assess students’ sense of numbers, their fluency in calculation, and their ability understand concepts rather than plug in the answers. Calculator permitted on certain portions of the math section. The calculator can be used where most appropriate, but the no-calculator section allows greater assessment of students’ understanding, fluency, and technique
Reading and writing does not require data analysis. The reading and writing section does not often include passages from science and social studies with graphs and tables; questions rarely require students to both read text and analyze data. Students asked to analyze both text and data in real world contexts, including identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two. Students will show the work they do throughout their classes by reading science articles and historical and social studies sources.
Source documents drawn from texts that are not widely recognized and publicly available. Students have no idea before they take the test what the reading passages will be about. Each exam will include a passage drawn from the Founding Documents or the Great Global Conversation. Students read from either a founding document such as the Declaration of Independence or from the conversation they inspire in the United States and around the world, such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or King’s” I Have a Dream” speech.
Scoring deducts points for incorrect answers. Students get ¼ point deducted for incorrect answers; no points deducted for omitted answers. Scoring does not deduct points for incorrect answers (rights-only scoring). Students are encouraged to select the best answer to every question.
Essay is required. Essay is optional.
Score scale of 2400. Score scale of 1600 with separate score for Essay.
SAT available on paper only. SAT available in paper and digital forms.

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