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SAT changingBy Stacey Seybold Hiller, CCC-SLP in Fortune Academy, Speech and Language Therapy, Education, College Prep

Everything old is new again…. The SAT (collegeboard.org) is changing. This is the first substantial change made to this time-honored exam in eleven years.  The college board made the changes to “reflect the changes in education”.   This is true, but it is a good thing?  The answer is sort of.

Let me explain:

  • Let’s begin with the changes that will be good for our students.  First off, there is no longer going to be any penalty for a wrong answer.  So this means that if a student can narrow the answers done even a little, they should guess.  It means they should ALWAYS guess.  The only penalty now will be for an unanswered question.
  • They are allowing for more time per most sections.  Since most of our students receive the accommodation of more time, that means they get more time as well.
  • They are now providing FREE test prep in conjunction with the Khan Academy online education service.  Currently, you have to pay a fairly large sum of money for specific SAT prep courses.  Now, students can learn and prep online.  Which allows for as much repetition as they need, which is another perk.  This is a great place to start with your student.  Do some of the online prep with Khan academy with them.  It may help you understand how they may do on the SAT in the future.
  • The essay portion is now optional.  Some schools may require it, but you do not have to take it anymore (which has also made the point total of the entire test go from 2400 to 1600).

Now on to the challenges:

  • The math portion has been changed in several ways.  One is that the majority of the problems no longer allow/require a calculator.  The reason is that the problems are now almost as much about reading as they are about math.  In some cases, the word count of the problems have tripled.  We are back to the quintessential word problem.  Students will need to weed out the information that they need in order to figure out what the problem is, then go on to solve it.  One important note:  The SAT assumes that the student has had at least 3 years of high school math.  If your student has not had that much math instruction yet, they will literally be being testing on information they have yet to learn.
  • The second section “Evidence Based Reading” will now look at a student’s ability to comprehend passages and understand/figure out new words in context.  While they got rid of the obscure “SAT words” that students used to try to learn just for the test, and then never hear or use again, they have put a greater emphasis on reading comprehension.  In addition, they will ask questions to have the student explain how they got to the conclusion that they did, which is a complex language skill.
  • The writing section is now more about using and recognizing correct grammar, and being able to build a good argument.  If given a writing prompt for example, the student may have to build a complete and complex outline showing how to argue for or against the issue within the writing prompt.

So is it better or worse for our students?  The answer is….it depends on the student.  For some of our students who are heading to college, the ACT may now be a better option.  For some of our students, these changes will work in their favor.  For others, attending a school that does not require either test may be the best option.  As parents, you can work with your student’s teachers to help decide what is best for them.  One important note:  Your child’s SAT scores are NEVER released to any school unless they are specifically authorized to do so; so if your child attempts the test once or twice and doesn’t do well, no one will ever have to see those scores.

The best news of all is that there are many secondary education opportunities that do not require SAT or ACT scores as a criteria for admission.  If you have not had a chance to do so yet, take a look at the COLLEGES THAT CHANGE LIVES website;  http://www.ctcl.org/

It is a wealth of information regarding these kinds of schools.

About the Author

Stacey Seybold Hiller is Owner of Indy Pediatric Speech Solutions as well as Speech and Language Instructor for Fortune Academy.  Stacey specializes in individualized therapeutic teaching for children to improve their speech, language, oral-motor, and overall communication skills.