Posted by Julia Wasson

Jul 23, 2014 7:34:00 AM

Recently, the College Board announced that the SAT test is receiving a major overhaul for spring of 2016. The College Board claims that the SAT format redesign is aimed at leveling the playing field for students and aligning the testing material more closely with what students actually learn in high school.

The important theme to note, one that’s threaded throughout these changes to the SAT test, is that while there is a continued emphasis on reasoning, the new format focuses on the knowledge, skills and understanding most important for college and career readiness. This shift will ultimately affect how you and your child handle SAT prep.

Here are the eight key ways the SAT test is changing in 2016:

1. Relevant Words in Context

The redesign of the SAT test will focus on students’ understanding of high-utility words. Students will be tested on interpreting the meaning of words “in the context of extended prose passages.” What this means is that your child should build SAT vocabulary skills for words that they’re likely to encounter in college and the workforce and pay attention to alternate meanings of familiar words. After all, the SAT may use high utility words, but it will still be a challenging test.

This also means that all those “highly obscure” SAT vocab words that most adults don’t even know are gone.

2. Command of Evidence

The Reading and the Writing and Language sections of the redesigned SAT test will ask students to interpret and use evidence from “high-quality previously published sources,” such as graphics, literary excerpts, and texts in other subjects, including the humanities and science.

In the SAT Reading Test, there will be at least one pair of questions in which your student has to “both interpret text and back up their interpretation by citing the most relevant textual support.” That’s something your student is unlikely to have encountered on any standardized test. It puts extra weight on getting that first question in the pair right, as it determines the correctness of the next question as well.

The SAT Writing and Language test will ask your student to critique and revise passages relating to elements such as word choice, clarity, style and tone, use of transitions, logical sequence, main idea and purpose.

3. Essay — Analyzing a Source

If your student chooses to write the Essay, which will become an optional part of the test, he or she will be asked to write a clear analysis supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from source material.

The essay portion of the new SAT format is radically different from the current SAT essay. Students preparing for the essay part of the SAT test should practice analyzing how authors do their work as writers. They will be asked to read a passage and explain how the author “builds an argument to persuade” an audience. This task tests a student’s ability to analyze the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive elements. That type of writing task more closely mimics college writing assignments than the current essay does.

4. Focus on Math that Matters Most

The new SAT format is set to focus on three key areas of math: problem solving and data analysis, algebra and some advanced math. This change is based on research showing that these areas contribute the most to readiness for college and career training.

Yet, your child should be forewarned that the new SAT test won’t shy away from including some additional areas of math, including types of geometric and trigonometric skills.

5. Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts

Across the newly redesigned SAT test, students are going to engage with questions grounded in the real world. For example, in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, the reading questions include fiction, nonfiction, and graphics that a student might see in college courses or a future career.

Another example of real-world context is in the Math section, which will feature multistep applications to solve problems in science, social science, career scenarios, and more.

6. Analysis in Science and History/Social Studies

With the new SAT format, analytical skills are also needed to answer questions correctly in science, history, and social studies contexts. These skills are necessary — in college and beyond — to make sense of discoveries, political developments, global events, and issues that have worldwide impact.

To prepare for analytical SAT test questions, your child should practice interpreting data shown in graphics and determining how it is (or isn’t) consistent with the accompanying text.

7. Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation

Founding U.S. documents — such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and Federalist Papers — are going to be a part of the redesigned SAT test. Including ways to engage with what the College Board calls the “Great Global Conversation” aids in developing readiness skills while reflecting on the issues and concerns that define our citizenship. Those issues and concerns include “freedom, justice, and human dignity among them,” says the College Board.

8. No Penalty for Wrong Answers

Unlike the current SAT and PSAT, the redesigned SAT test has correct answers-only scoring (points for correct answers but no deductions for incorrect answers; blank responses have no impact on scores). Additional “subscores” will be reported for every test to provide more insight for students, parents, admissions officers, educators and counselors.

The scoring system will also be changed from the current maximum SAT score of 2400 (800 for math, 800 for reading comprehension, and 800 for writing) to 1600, with the essay section being optional.

Who does this affect? If the College Board is on schedule with its development, students who will be Juniors in the fall of 2016 will take the new PSAT in the fall of 2015 as Sophomores. Students who will be Juniors in the Fall of 2015 will take the existing SAT. But remember, a lot has to happen before the test can go live. Stay tuned for more developments as the College Board releases them.

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