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3 ways the SAT will NOT change

Students taking a test
Students taking a test

In the wake of the College Board’s announcement that the 2016 SAT will undergo significant revisions, a great deal of understandable attention has been placed upon the differences students expect to see. While the SAT will change, some aspects of the standardized test will also remain consistent. Of these aspects, here are three that warrant consideration by parents, students, and teachers:

1. Reading comprehension skills will remain a key component of the exam
The new SAT will debut with equally unfamiliar section titles—at least in two respects. While “Math” will remain as is, “Writing” will become an optional portion entitled, “The Essay.” “Critical Reading” will be referred to as “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.” The return to just two mandatory sections thus accounts for the re-implemented grading scale of 1600, rather than 2400. These adjustments may seem minor, but they call, too, for clarification.

The “evidenced-based” in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing underscores an important detail about the revised SAT. Students must recognize and choose the specific phrases that support their conclusions. To do so involves the ability to critically review and comprehend passages of text. Students who struggle with reading comprehension should work to strengthen their skill set now, as the new SAT will further rely upon an already prevalent question type.

2. Extended responses will continue to play a role in the Math portion
Currently, the Math section of the SAT assesses students via multiple-choice and student-produced (or extended response) answers. Exam content ranges broadly from algebra to data analysis to geometry, and charts, graphs, and tables all feature prominently. Test-takers must synthesize information that is presented numerically, textually, and visually to arrive at a (sometimes self-generated) response.

This reality will remain relatively consistent. The creators of the 2016 SAT intend to limit subject matter to just three areas—algebra, data analysis and problem-solving, and “advanced math”—but the new SAT will not eliminate long-answer problems. Instead, students can expect to address a greater number of extended responses, as well as multi-step questions. As with reading comprehension above, it is imperative that students who find it difficult to explain their logic practice this technique soon, and as often as possible.

3. Students who complete a preparation regimen will fare best
David Coleman, President of the College Board, cited a need to—and an intention to—draw clearer parallels between classroom content and the revised SAT. This is a positive development for students. However, the inclusion of relevant vocabulary and problems presented within a “real world” context will not radically affect the current state of affairs—the SAT is an exam that requires dedicated preparation over weeks or months.

Students benefit from creating and completing a review plan. The College Board has, in fact, cultivated additional resources that individuals can draw from to foster this skill. It is important to note, still, that an increased correlation between school curricula and test material does not mean that certain students will innately succeed. In 2016 and beyond, the SAT will remain an exam of strategy.

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