By Andrea Downing Peck
DO YOU HAVE a college-bound student
who is planning to take the infamous SAT in
spring 2016? If so, he or she will encounter a
redesigned exam that has undergone sweeping changes. It may cause students to rethink
how they prepare for the all-important admissions exam.
The College Board is overhauling the
exam that is taken by more than 1. 6 million
students each year, to make it more closely
align with what is being taught in high school
classrooms, and to better assess the skills
needed for college and career success.
The redesigned SAT will be administered
for the first time in March 2016. The test will
include two required sections—math and
evidence-based reading and writing—plus an
optional essay. The new test will take three
hours (without optional essay) instead of the
current three hours and 45 minutes.
Calculators will be allowed during only a portion of the math section.
A “perfect” score will return to the familiar 1,600-point scale, with the reading and
math sections scored from 200 to 800.
Students also will receive “cross-test scores”
showing how they performed in science and
College Board chief of assessment
Cynthia Schmeiser says the goal was to create
a test “focused on the knowledge and skills
[that] research tells us are absolutely essential
for college readiness and college success.”
The Costco member explains, “We want
it to be useful, so when students encounter
this exam they see the applicability not only
to their schoolwork in high school but also to
what they are interested in pursuing in college
and a career.”
Among the highlights of the redesign:
• The reading and writing sections will
include questions that require students to cite
evidence for their answer choices. Contents
of prose passages may include careers, history/social studies, humanities or science and
may be paired with informational graphics.
• Students no longer will be asked to complete sentences after memorizing SAT vocabulary words, but will have to understand more
common words in extended contexts.
• The math section will focus in depth on
algebra and problem-solving
and data analysis, with
some advanced math
questions. Students will be
required to solve problems
in science, social studies
and career-related contexts.
• A passage from
United States founding documents (the Declaration of
Independence, the Bill of
Rights, the Federalist Papers)
or a text from the global conversation will be included on
• The quarter-point penalty for wrong
answers has been eliminated.
• An optional essay will focus on analyzing a source text. The essay prompt will
remain constant; only the passage analyzed
will change on subsequent exams.
The College Board is offering options
beyond the test-prep industry through free
online Khan Academy test-prep videos,
practice tests and other tools at collegereadi
ness.collegeboard.org and publishing a new
study guide for the redesigned SAT.
“We’re trying to give kids all the information they need before they go into the test so
they know what to expect, but we also want to
help them strengthen their college readiness
skills if their PSAT (preliminary SAT) test
scores show them things they need to work
on,” Schmeiser says.
Despite the College Board’s new transparency, veteran tutor Akil Bello, director of
strategic initiatives at The Princeton Review,
expects test preparation to remain an important ingredient in student success.
“Preparing for the SAT is much like joining a baseball team and asking if you should
get a coach,’” says Bello, a Costco member. “A
coach may not turn the New York Mets into a
championship team, but having a coach is
better than not having a coach. Practicing is
better than not practicing.”
The old and the new
While incoming high school sophomores
will take the revised PSAT in October, rising
juniors have a choice between taking the “old”
SAT this fall and winter or the redesigned
exam in March.
“Whether juniors prepare for the [old]
version of the SAT or the new-as-of-2016 version, it is still the first time they’re preparing for
an SAT,” Bello says. “Prepare for it and do the
best you can, get the help you can, and you will
improve your performance and maximize
your score.” C
Andrea Downing Peck is a freelance writer in Washington state.
Have your pencils ready:
SAT gets an overhaul
The Costco Connection
The Official SAT Study Guide (2016 edition)
is available in all warehouses (Item #477528;
6/30). This guide for the new test includes
four official SAT practice tests, detailed
descriptions of the math and evidence-based
reading and writing sections, guidance on the
new optional essay, test-taking approaches
and suggestions that underscore important
points, and much more.
arts & entertainment