For the first time since 2012, the SAT has gone through major changes. On its website, the College Board claims, “One of our biggest goals in changing the SAT was to make sure it’s highly relevant to your future success.” People have long questioned how well standardized testing really measures a student’s skill set. They’ve also expressed concerns that these tests do not accurately reflect what students have learned. The new SAT was designed to fit more closely with the work that students are doing in their high school classrooms.
Here are some of the most significant changes: The test has been returned to a 1600-point scale. The essay is now optional. The test now quizzes students on words that are more commonly used in everyday life and the classroom, rather than vocabulary words people might never have to use again. There is no longer a penalty for wrong answers, but there is also more emphasis on supporting one’s answers. These changes are meant to realign the students with the skills and course material that they’ve become familiar with in their classes.
During their junior and senior years, your students will be preparing for the SAT’s, and as teachers, you will want to help them.
Most high schoolers will already be aware that it’s important to prepare, and that the SAT is more than just a multiple choice quiz. Their scores can determine their choice of colleges, and a few employers even ask college graduates what score they received on their SAT. Obviously, the material cannot all be covered in just one class. Students will need to take advantage of other opportunities to review and practice. And practice. And practice some more.
Familiarity breeds confidence, even in students who struggle with tests. And with free online tools like the College Board website, or Khan Academy, your class has more access to SAT prep without having to spend money on tutors.
Remind your students that preparing for the SAT is a marathon, not a sprint. If you run at top speed at the very beginning of a twelve-mile marathon, you would be out of breath before even making it halfway to the finish line. Similarly, encourage your students not to focus on answering all questions in order and getting stuck on questions they aren’t able to answer. Encourage them to finish as much as possible and go back to those unsolved questions finish, if there’s still time.
Despite changes to make the test more relevant and shorter, students may feel anxious about the test because the stakes can be high. As teachers, you can help them be prepared emotionally, and encourage them to be at their best on the day of the test. Getting enough sleep and eating a decent breakfast can make a positive difference, too.
Time will tell how the new test compares to previous versions of the SAT. In the meantime, students and teachers will work hard to continue to meet the challenge of the SAT and other standardized testing.