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How students will benefit from the changes to the SAT

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Beginning in 2016, high school students will complete a new version of the SAT. Other than having to adapt their test prep, why should students care? Because these changes will benefit them long-term, which is partially why these changes are coming into effect; they are meant to reflect learning that is clearly relevant to students’ lives, rather than seemingly arbitrary information that is only applicable to the exam itself. Students will gain tremendously from the updated SAT in two very important ways:

1. Increased accuracy – and honesty – in the admissions process
The SAT typically plays a central role in college and university admissions. Yet, over the years, higher education institutions have begun to cite a need for assessment measures that are able to better predict academic success with more reliability.

As an SAT tutor, I stress to clients that the current SAT is not an intelligence test. It is not a cumulative assessment of their high school years. It is an exam of strategy, often divorced from the realities of the American classroom. With these changes on their way, David Coleman of The College Board hopes to strengthen the test’s ability to determine how well students deploy the knowledge they learn in school. While strategy identification and application will undoubtedly continue to factor into students’ final marks, mastery of high school material necessary for college success will feature more prominently. The new SAT will, in theory, no longer represent an assessment measure with declining relevance to the admissions process where students with simply high knowledge of test-taking strategy fare better.

2. Consistency across all avenues of education
Though I possess two degrees and a secondary teaching certificate, in my 28 years, I have never utilized the term “compendious.” The same is true of “treacly,” though both words represent typical vocabulary selections on the SAT. These terms, in addition to various concepts that relate to grammar, mathematics, and paragraph composition, represent no context beyond the exam itself, and students who are familiar with them usually gain this knowledge outside the classroom – not within it.

Mr. Coleman hopes to alter this reality not only to reinvigorate the SAT’s importance within higher education admissions, but to align test content with educational standards. By truly standardizing what material appears on the SAT (as discussed above), as well as how it is presented and how it is solved, the exam becomes a holistic addition to American high school education, rather than a singular challenge with no direct correlation to the strategies and subject matter that college and university students require to succeed in higher education.

Ultimately, the actual release of the revised SAT in 2016 will be what proves whether or not its modifications can benefit high school-age individuals. Mr. Coleman’s and The College Board’s acknowledgements that change is necessary, however, represent an important first step.

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