Three letters – S, A, and T – can send chills down the backs of many students.
Taken by more than two million students throughout the world every year, the current SAT is designed to test students in Math, Critical Reading, and Writing with an essay section included. The College Board recently announced that the format of the SAT will be changing as of March 2016. The announcement has left many current sophomores and juniors with apprehension.
Established in the 1920s, the SAT started out on a 1600 point scale, including various Math and Verbal sections. In 2005, it went through a drastic change that converted it to a 2400 point scale and included an essay. The exam is now reverting to a 1600 point scale, with several new test question types, and now the essay will be optional.
Cindy Qiang, a junior at New Jersey’s Westfield High School, told JSR, “I think the exam is getting more difficult because the essay is longer and the range of topics explored is much shorter. In addition, the longer sections are much more taxing than the previous version… and there is also a ‘no calculator’ section on the math part which leaves more room for error.”
Qiang has decided to take the current SAT before taking her chances with the new exam.
“The new SAT covers several new topics and will be formatted more similarly to the ACT,” said Daniella Lim, the director of the C2 Education tutoring center in Westfield, referencing a competing standardized test administered independently of the College Board.
Lim continued, “Juniors taking pre-calculus should be ready to take the new SAT, which covers some pre-calculus math topics, unlike the current SAT.”
Math isn’t the only subject undergoing drastic changes; the Critical Reading section introduces a new type of question and the new essay will be a longer, document-based analytical essay that College Board says will show colleges “that you are ready to come to campus and write.”
While no one can guarantee an enrollment in college simply by choosing to take the optional essay of the new SAT, Yale University has made it clear that taking it will help students. Many universities may follow Yale’s example, although several have already announced that they will not require the essay.
Current juniors have a few different options. Since the current SAT will be administered until January 2016, they can choose to prepare early and take the current SAT, prepare steadily for the new SAT, or take the ACT. Many of the current high school sophomores that attend Lim’s center have opted to prepare for the ACT instead of the new SAT. It may be a more reliable option for students nervous about the change.
The format of the test may have changed, but Lim encourages students to study in the same manner and with the same effort as with the current SAT.
During her interview with JSR, she advised, “Start prepping for the exam early. Do many of the practice test questions that are released by the College Board as well as all the questions from many of test prep books such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, and Barron’s.”
However they prepare, students should regard the SAT as a necessary evil and not a perfect reflection of their potential. While the test is important, students should also understand that a single exam will not determine the course of their futures and lives. The SAT is not a measure of one’s self worth or intelligence, nor is it comprehensive or completely accurate.