Breaking News! College Board Announces New Changes to the SAT

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Today, the College Board announced some MAJOR changes to the SAT. Starting in spring 2016, the new SAT will:

  • Have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • Return to the 1600 scale. The essay will provide a separate score. For about a half a century, the SAT had a math and reading section, each scored from 200 to 800. Then in 2005, the College Board implemented a new writing section, introducing a perfect score of 2400. Now the test will go back to a 1600 scale.
  • Be approximately three hours in length, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay. The precise time of the exam will be affirmed through research.
  • Be administered both in print and by computer in 2016.
In addition, major changes to the exam include:
  1. Relevant words in context: “SAT words” will no longer be vocabulary students may not have heard before and are likely not to hear again. Instead, the SAT will focus on words that students will use consistently in college and beyond.
  2. Evidence-based reading and writing. Students will be asked to support answers with evidence, including questions that require them to cite a specific part of a passage to support their answer choice.
  3. Essay analyzing a source: The essay will measure 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. The essay portion of the writing section will no longer be required. Two major factors led to this decision. First, while the writing work that students do in the reading and writing section of the exam is deeply predictive of college readiness and success, one essay alone historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam. Second, feedback from College Board member admission officers was split; some found the essay useful, many did not. The College Board will promote analytical writing throughout their assessments and instructional resources. The organization will also sponsor an awards program modeled after the Pulitzer Prize for the best student analytical writing. The Atlantic magazine has agreed to publish the winners.
  4. Math focused on three key areas: The math section will draw from fewer topics that evidence shows most contribute to student readiness for college and career training. The exam will focus on three essential areas: problem solving and data analysis; the heart of algebra; and passport to advanced math. Students can study these core math areas in depth and have confidence that they will be assessed.
  5. Source documents originate from a wide range of academic disciplines, including science and social studies: The reading section will enable students to analyze a wide range of sources, including literature and literary non-fiction, science, history and social studies.
  6. Analyzing data and texts in real world context: Students will be 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.
  7. Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation: Each exam will include a passage drawn from the Founding Documents of America or the Great Global Conversation they inspire — texts like the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  8. Scoring does not deduct points for incorrect answers (rights-only scoring): The College Board will remove the penalty for wrong answers — and go to the simpler, more transparent model of giving students points for the questions they answer correctly. Students are encouraged to select the best answer to every question.
Finally, the College Board also announced that low-income students will receive four waivers to apply to college for free (The College Board already sponsors free waivers to low-income students to take the SAT)A full test document example, which will include sample items, will be available April 16, 2014. For more information on the new redesigned SAT, CLICK HERE and … stay tuned! 
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The Debate Over Standardized Tests

testing toolsWhether you are pro or anti standardized testing, you or your child are going have to confront them. They are a part of our education system, and since the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) Initiative, their value in our education system has skyrocketed. Whether you’re a third grader prepping for a state wide assessment exam, or a professional gearing up for the GRE, when asked to perform on a standardized test, you are essentially being asked to “think within the box” (or bubble). Standardized tests are a beast of their own: they require not only that you access retained information, but can decode a question, process it, use critical reasoning to find an answer, switch from topic to topic effortlessly, all under pressure to perform.

Proponents of standardized testing argue that “teaching to the test” is not so terrible, as it keeps teachers on track and committed to making students motivated to excel in a goal-oriented fashion. In this way, “teaching to the test” can also easily identify what areas a student needs to work on in a definitive way. And lastly, performance anxiety is a part of life, one that we will all have to face eventually, and standardized testing is one way for young people to practice excelling under stress. Students can also learn to manage the stress they experience under these conditions rather than let it control the entirety of their scholastic testingexperiences.

On the other hand, detractors of standardized testing argue that test performance is not an accurate, and certainly not holistic measure of learning. NCLB is more about policy making than it is about a commitment to education and the empowerment that comes from learning, thinking critically, the ability to ask rather than answer questions. “Teaching to the test” might have temporary effects in a student’s performance, but is not a reliable way of measuring academic growth. (As an aside, I think within “teaching to the test” there are various methodologies to explore aside from rote learning and regurgitating facts — but that’s another post!) We just have not figured out how to use test-based incentives to improve education (which is the goal of education based policy making). There is also much to be said for the objectivity of standardized test questions (meaning that questions are not in fact objective) and even with appropriate accommodations given to students with learning differences, uniform questions do not address the complexity of learning styles.

Given all the pros and cons of standardized testing, one thing is clear: a test cannot measure some of the most valuable learning skills like empathy, creativity, resourcefulness, integrity, and critical analysis. Testing relies on the notion that there is a right and a wrong answer, and while that may be the case with many situations in life, there isn’t always an absolute truth. Low test scores can damage a student’s self-esteem and create a poor self-image, especially the younger we start mandating tests. However, testing can also build resilience, teach students how to reason under pressure, perform under stress, focus, and complete a task. There’s no easy answer to this debate, but there are solutions on how to approach standardized tests.

  • Preparation is key.
  • Organization and methodical study habits can be motivational.
  • Manage the importance you or your child put on testing.
  • Separate how you think about learning and achievement.

If you are seeking accommodations DO NOT WAIT, before filing the appropriate paperwork — whether that means an IEP report or private testing from a neuropsychologist. In order for the Board of Education or private testing board, like the College Board, to grant accommodations (like extra time, having questions read aloud to students, a computer and or scribe) students must have a track record (with the appropriate paper trail) that precedes the test date.

 

 

 

 

SAT Study Guides: Apps & One Cool Book

Acing the SAT … there’s an app for that. No, really, College Board has a question of the day Twitter account you call follow to give your social media a little more substance.

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Available on iTunes, is a new SAT Math app by Michael DeRosa featuring digital flashcards that focus on learning concepts rather than memorizing information. Find over 2,600 question combinations here.

Also available on iTunes, is the English vocabulary app by ExamBusters with over 1,000 common SAT words. Find synonyms, antonyms, sample sentences and parts of speech.

But are apps as effective as taking pen to paper? My two-cents, you want to overload your brain with as many ways to study and learn information as possible. If you’re an auditory learner, apps may be the way to go (in addition to taking as many practice tests as possible, and working with a tutor). If you are a tactile learner, perhaps you might want to make your own flashcards. Take my learning style quiz and figure out what kind of learner you are. You can never be too prepared for standardized tests, and although you may dread studying, the more prepared you are, the less you will experience anxiety. Remember, avoidance is a form of anxiety, so the more you procrastinate and put off studying, the more anxious you are making yourself. If apps can help you get into the study groove, why not give them a try? But don’t rely on them.

I also recommend this cool not-your-everyday SAT study guide, written by my colleague, writer, former tutor, and Bonobo enthusiast, Elliot Schrefer, Hack The SAT for strategies and sneaky shortcuts on how to up your score. 51WrSpr2Q0L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

 

UPCOMING SAT TEST DATES: March 8 and  May 3, 2014 Register Now!