By Michelle Talsma Everson
The SAT test is practically a high school rite of passage. According to the College Board—described as a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity—the SAT test measures what a student learned in high school and what they need to succeed in college. As education has changed, so has the SAT test, so it’s helpful for parents to know what to expect from the new SAT.
What is the SAT?
“The SAT tests students’ math, reading and writing skills, with an optional essay section,” explains Linda Jensen, director of the Arizona College Access Network. “Not every college or university requires an SAT, but many require either an SAT or an ACT score. Having an SAT score on file can give students a competitive edge in the application process. It is a good predictor of how well students will do in college, and high scores can lead to scholarship opportunities. A high SAT score can also help balance out a lower GPA.”
An Evolving Test
Both Jensen and the College Board agree that the SAT test has changed over the years.
“One of our biggest goals in changing the SAT was to make sure it’s highly relevant to your future success,” cites the College Board on their official website, collegeboard.org. “The new test is more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education.”
According to the College Board, the newly updated SAT encourages students to take charge of their own learning experience.
“If you think the key to a high score is memorizing words and facts you’ll never use in the real world, think again,” according to the College Board. “You don’t have to discover secret tricks or cram the night before. The same habits and choices that lead to success in school will help you get ready for the SAT.”
The College Board notes that those habits are: taking challenging classes; preparing for tests and quizzes; doing homework; and asking and answering a lot of questions.
“College Board has made periodic changes to the test to increase its predictive value and to keep up with modern curriculum,” Jensen says. “One of the more visible changes has been to the scoring scale. The scale has changed from 1,600 to 2,400 and now back to 1,600 again.”
Jensen adds that the SAT has also changed how it scores answers and the vocabulary it uses.
“In some ways the SAT has become more similar to the ACT,” she says. “Like the ACT, there is now no penalty for wrong answers, meaning students should answer every question. One of the major SAT changes was the move toward vocabulary that is used in everyday language rather than obscure words.”
How Parents and Students Can Prepare
The College Board recommends that students and parents prepare for the SAT test by educating themselves on what to expect. They can do this by visiting collegeboard.org and learning more about the reading, writing and language, math and optional essay portions of the test.
“Parents should ensure students are registering for an SAT test date now,” says Jensen. “After the test parents can be instrumental in helping students interpret their score reports. After the test students can send four free score reports to the colleges of their choice.”
In addition, to prepare, students can now log on to khanacademy.org/sat for free personalized SAT practice tests and feedback.
“For the first time ever, the creators of the SAT have given Khan Academy exclusive access and advice to build a personalized practice program for anyone, anywhere,” cites Khan Academy’s official website. “These tools are free and available now for every student to take ownership of their learning and their future.”
Parents and teachers can also log on to the same website for information on how to help their teens best prepare for the test.
To learn more about this year’s SAT test, visit collegeboard.org. For more information on free testing resources, visit khanacademy.org/sat.
SAT vs. ACT?
According to the Princeton Review, most colleges accept both the SAT and ACT equally, so the choice really is up to each student. To learn about some of the differences—which can include question styles and test length—log on to princetonreview.com/college/sat-act.