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3 ways to begin preparing for the new SAT

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The College Board recently announced that the release of the revised SAT will be delayed from 2015 to the spring of 2016. The College Board claims that the additional year will enable its test developers to write an exam that more completely measures students’ readiness for higher education, but this delay also permits students to deepen and lengthen their preparations for the new test. In light of the detailed revisions that the College Board explains here, high school students can take the following steps now to review for the test in a meaningful manner.

1. Read voraciously
Read often and read wisely. In 2013, David Coleman, the College Board’s president, noted a number of core issues with the SAT including its essay and the vocabulary it assesses. Coleman intends to address these shortcomings with an exam that utilizes terms typical of college coursework and greater society; expect to see vocabulary words like “synthesis,” rather than “sagacious.” A now-optional writing test will require individuals to draw from and reference textual sources in lieu of their personal experiences. (Consider the Advanced Placement exam a potential inspiration for the revised SAT.)

How will frequent reading assist students in the Class of 2017 and beyond? Articles, blog posts, magazines, newspapers, novels, poems, short stories—these objects can broaden an individual’s vocabulary and knowledge of various issues and perspectives. Students will especially benefit from familiarizing themselves with college-level materials, as selections on the revised SAT will highlight important moments in American history and science. What are your older family members and friends reading at university? Peruse assigned readings from their past and current classes for a glimpse of the content you can perhaps expect to see on the new SAT.

2. Develop a habit of explaining your thought processes
The 2016 version of the SAT will involve a greater number of reading and writing changes than it will math modifications. However, the new test will closely align with the skills necessary to succeed in college-level math classes—namely advanced equations, algebra, and data analysis and problem-solving.

“Reasoning” is a key term here. Merely selecting an answer from a list of multiple-choice options does not prompt students to rely upon higher order thinking – explaining their answers does. Students will see an increased number of questions that prompt them to identify the evidence for their conclusions, especially in reading comprehension. To prepare for this eventuality, walk others (such as a classmate, parent, or sibling) through your homework. Clearly state why you performed each step, as well as how you knew to do so. While this may seem uncomfortable initially, it is an excellent strategy for recognizing weaknesses in your logic and/or understanding of the material.

3. Sit for the revised PSAT
The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is specifically designed to introduce and prepare students for its parent test, the SAT. Typically, students complete the PSAT in their junior year of high school, but the College Board does not prevent younger students from registering for the exam. Inquire with your high school’s guidance counselor about sitting for the PSAT as a freshman or sophomore—especially in 2015.

Why? The College Board will release a revised version of the PSAT in the fall of that year. This new PSAT may serve as the first true glimpse of the updated SAT, which no longer carries a guessing penalty. For juniors, completing the revised PSAT will be imperative, as your period of adjustment to the new SAT will be short. Do not allow the updated content and format to imperil your college applications. Freshmen and sophomores will also benefit from practicing the new exam as early and as often as possible.

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