By Alan Sheptin
I feel for the Class of 2017. When its senior prom occurs in the not too distant future, perhaps the theme should be “Changes” (that David Bowie song). This is the first class that endured the new Common Core Algebra I curriculum, a revamped English program, and redesigned AP courses. And, it will be the first to experience SAT Reboot.
This new SAT, the dream of the President of the College Board (and Common Core visionary) David Coleman, is a radical departure from the current exam. Gone is the guessing penalty for incorrect answers! Gone are the vocabulary fill-ins! Gone are those brainteaser Math questions! Gone is choice E! And gone is the required, formulaic essay where To Kill a Mockingbird can help any student respond effectively to virtually any essay prompt. Returning is the 1600-point scale. This redesign has led many a Guidance Counselor and test prep expert to call it ACT 2.0.
But is it…really?
Before the reinvigorated test samples came out earlier this year, I, too, was convinced that this was to be the College Board’s version of the ACT; after all, the College Board has seen a consistent loss in market share, while the ACT has been gaining in popularity. However, a more thorough read of the practice tests has led me to conclude differently:
Reading: Evidence-Based reading and longer passages. In addition to finding the correct answer, the follow-up question will require demonstration that a student can show where the answer was located. Some passages will be excerpted from the classics (think Bronte and Tolstoy). There will also be primary source passages, from the important documents of our civilization. There will also be a trend to more relevant passages, with charts and graphs.
Writing and Language: Understand the rules of written English. This section of the SAT mimics the look and feel of the ACT English test. Questions require students to revise and strengthen paragraphs. The reading and writing sections will be combined to create a single score.
Math: Emphasis on Algebra and Data Analysis; reduced focus on Geometry. This exam will require students to have impeccable Algebra skills, including the ability to manipulate variables, solve linear, system, and quadratic equations, explain relationships between variables, create mathematical equations, and analyze data in charts and graphs. More interestingly, this new exam will have a “no calculator” section, requiring students to manipulate algebraic expressions, have a greater sense of numbers and analysis thereof, and an increased fluency in arithmetic.
Optional Essay: Analyze the structure and rhetoric of an article. A student will have to be far more knowledgeable about rhetorical strategies in analyzing an issue. The new essay will require 50 minutes of time, instead of 25.
So, what should rising juniors (and sophomores) be doing right now to prepare for this test? Here are some of my key suggestions:
Read a variety of works. If your child has read the Harry Potter series twelve times over, or thinks that The Fault in Our Stars is high-end literature, help them raise the bar. The SAT will be testing excerpts from “rich” literature. Some passages will look like newspaper articles. Encourage your child to read the New York Times Weekly Review section, as well as the Science Times.
Take the most challenging Math courses. All too many students find Math to be a chore. Yes, learning Math is painful: just like perfecting your lacrosse moves or mastering that really tough classical piece, it takes time and patience. I usually tell my students that the few homework problems a teacher recommends constitutes the minimum amount of work you need to do to master a skill. So, keep at it. Dare to be challenged and don’t drop down a level just to get the easy A. It will hurt in the long run.
Bottom line: the jury’s still out on this new test. However, over time, I think that the College Board has finally hit the nail on the head. It created a test that is challenging, relevant, and resembles the skills required to successfully manage college.
The current SAT will continue to be offered until January 2016, and “SAT 2.0” will make its debut in March. Time will tell how students, educators, and admission officers receive the test. We will continue to analyze these new exams and their impact on the college admissions process.
Alan J. Sheptin is the founder of Sheptin Tutoring Group, LLC, a full-service test prep company in Chappaqua. He has worked with hundreds of students, successfully preparing them for the SATs, ACTs, and all academic subjects. He and his team pride themselves on providing a nurturing and motivating environment, which is vital to success. Call 844-743-7846 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org