The New SAT Challenges Opinions, Ideas, and Students (Oh My!)


Studious Senior who Takes Challenging Courses!

Underclassmen, one of the most stressful factors of your college process is soon to be lifted off your shoulders.

Seniors, sorry.

Standardized tests are a huge part of the college application process. According to the College Board, the SAT was designed to be a predictive measure of success in college. The SAT is one type of standardized tests that almost all U.S. colleges require as part of an individual’s application. Although the current SAT is designed to determine a student’s success in school, research shows there is no correlation.

As a result of this lack of correlation, the College Board has implemented a new SAT. A recent study confirms that the current SAT is unable to accurately measure an individual’s potential for success in college because the test is primarily strategy-based and incorporates material not covered in an everyday classroom.

According to a February 19 2015 article, “Virtually No Difference” in Inside Higher Ed, “high school grades do predict student success. Students with low high school grades but high test scores generally receive low college grades, while those with high grades in high school, but low test scores, generally receive high grades in college.” The most significant goal of the new SAT is to incorporate material learned in high school and needed for college to ensure future success.

On College Board’s website, the changes and their reasonings are explained. College Board states, “skills aren’t bought, they’re learned,” indicating that the new SAT will be a test to measure one’s skills and knowledge gained from school, unlike the current SAT, which some critics call a coachable test. The math section will be more focused on data analysis, real world problem solving, and will no longer allow calculators on every portion. In the reading and writing sections, students will have to cite evidence for their answer choices.

The new SAT will have an “optional essay, no penalty for guessing, and vocabulary you’ll use long after test day,” says the College Board website. The vocabulary section will be more focused on context analysis rather than straight memorization of words. In addition, the new SAT will provide “free world-class practice” through Khan Academy for families who cannot afford outside tutoring to “anyone, anywhere,” says Khan Academy. Juniors and seniors at the Out-of-Door Academy have strong opinions on the changes being made.

A May 4 2015 New York Times article, “The Big Problem With the New SAT,” says the SAT is still a norm-referenced test, which means students are tested against each other, not on the material itself as in a criterion-referenced test. Another concern is that the SAT is largely a measure of how quickly a student works, rather than how much they know and comprehend.

“My SAT tutor helped me learn the obscure vocabulary as well as the strategies on how to take the actual test. I’m glad I don’t have to take the new one,” says Senior, Liz Gaukhman.

Some students worry about how to prepare for the new design.

“I want to keep taking the old SAT because it’s simpler and has a concrete system, but there’s only one more test. If I do poorly on this next one, I’m stuck with the ACT. It’s so frustrating how much I work I put in into preparing for the SAT only for it to be replaced,” says  Junior Caroline Colburn.

Students who hope to avoid the new SAT may want to consider the ACT. The ACT is a standardized test that is similar to the new SAT being that it has an optional essay, everyday vocabulary, and no penalty for guessing. For more information, visit Prep Scholar.  

“Format-wise, the whole purpose was for the new SAT to mimic the ACT, but College Board won’t admit that. The differences are becoming less and less,” assures College Counselor, Mr. Harding.

The only ODA students interested in taking the current SAT are the seniors. However, some juniors are hoping to score high enough on the SAT in January before the changes are implemented.

Junior Caroline Colburn has taken the current SAT one time and is happy with her score, but feels she can score higher, but not through the new SAT.

“I have taken the PSAT many times. Just by taking the new PSAT, it seems harder to prepare for [the new SAT] if you can even prepare at all,” says Junior Caroline Colburn.

If the new SAT will not be coachable, how does one prepare?

In particular, the class of 2017 will have the biggest transition in the shortest amount of time being that the new SAT will become available in March 2016.

Because the new SAT is designed to mirror your success in high school, “the same habits and choices that lead to success in school will help you get ready for the SAT” and the best form of preparation will be “taking challenging courses, doing your homework, preparing for tests and quizzes, and asking and answering lots of questions,” explains the College Board website.

Faculty, some of which who are SAT tutors, explain how their course will be changed as well as what they believe is the best way to prepare.

“The new SAT requires a deep understanding of concepts that are relevant to the real world, so I would incorporate more questions that make students derive math from a situation. Basically, the students will have to take a written scenario and solve it mathematically, often without a calculator, says SAT math tutor, Mrs. Murphy.

Again, because the new SAT is not coachable, “it is crucial that students get really comfortable with critical reading by reading lots and reading often! There is no shortcut for this,” explains College Counselor, Mr. Calkins.

Overall, the new SAT will not only provide colleges with a more accurate measurement of a student’s skills and knowledge, but will also encourage students to try harder and do better in school, ultimately preparing his or her for college and beyond.