The New SAT

By now parents of current sophomores will have heard about the redesigned SAT that will launch in March of 2016. What's changing, and why should it matter to you and your child?

What's Changing

The College Board has overhauled the SAT to better reflect student achievement and Common Core standards, as well as to better compete against the ACT and increase its share of the testing market.

The College Board offers a summary of what it calls "Eight Key Changes."  These are:

  • Relevant Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Essay Analyzing a Source
  • Focus on Math that Matters Most
  • Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts
  • Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies
  • Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation
  • No Penalty for Wrong Answers

We highly recommend that parents of 10th graders read this excellent article by Charlie O'Hearn of Summit Educational Group, which outlines the redesign and also offers recommendations for the class of 2017. Here's his synopsis of the most important differences between the old and new SATs:

"Among the notable thematic changes are:  1) A Math Test that emphasizes a narrower but deeper grasp of algebra, de-emphasizes geometry, and puts more questions in real-world context; 2) Reading, Writing, and Language Tests that require students to cite evidence for their answers, analyze writing, and discern Tier 2 vocabulary definitions from context; and 3) Questions and content that better reflect the work that students undertake in the country's "best high school courses."  More specific changes include a return to the 1600-point scale, an overhaul of the essay section (including making it optional), the addition of a no-calculator math section, and rights-only scoring (i.e., no penalty for wrong answers)."

Why It Matters

To help manage the anxiety and uncertainty that can accompany standardized testing, we encourage our high school clients to have a testing plan for themselves. This might include taking both a diagnostic ACT and an SAT to determine which test to choose, selecting testing dates and registering well in advance, purchasing and studying a guidebook, taking a practice test, and working on-on-one with a test prep tutor.

Unfortunately, there are no practice tests available yet for the new SAT, nor do we have concordance tables that show an ACT score that compares to a new SAT score. Some current 10th graders may benefit by taking the old SAT in the fall of 2015, while most would be well-advised to consider taking the ACTs instead in the spring of 2016. Again, we refer you to the Summit article and its testing guidelines table.