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New SAT and student success in writing

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College Board officials have announced that changes in the annual SAT test will make the exam “better and more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward.” They plan to do away with some vocabulary words and make the essay portion optional.

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The new SAT, to be rolled out 2016, will continue to test reading, writing and math skills that are taught in high school and needed after high school. Students will have the option of taking the test on computers. Officials stated that scoring will return to a 1,600-point scale last used in 2004, with a separate score for the optional essay.

As I reflect on why teachers have students write anything, including essays, I remember it first and foremost was to teach them how to write. To start with an introduction, a body and a conclusion, to stay on topic-whatever that may be. Can the student get their point across? Can he form an argument and persuade a reader.

Teachers’ understand when students get a job they will more than likely have to write something. First they will need to convince someone to hire them and that first step today, is usually in writing online. After they get their job they may need to write a letter, report, explain how their product or idea works, or create a policy. They will need to write coherently from start to finish.

What the SAT essay did say to students is, this test is based on learning, not just on completing an assignment. Show what you’ve learned, how well you’ve have learned it and how prepared you are for your next step into the real world-to someone who doesn’t know you.

I do not know what will be the consequence for students who do not have the essay portion of the SAT as a goal. I do know there are students that will strive to communicate in writing well with no motivation. I do know teachers do not make students write papers so they can be just a success on the essay SAT test. Teachers’ have students write papers so they can learn to write, think, analyze and learn to learn independently.

Hopefully the changes to the new SAT can do what any good test does, help students to analyze their thinking, show their capabilities, grow and expand their own minds so they can be prepared for life after school.


Rhonda Cratty includes her experiences of 30 years of public school teaching, raising children of her own, and articles written for on-line and hard copy publications -within the pages of Learning at home. Learning at home can be purchased in print or eBook form through

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