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The Nuts and Bolts of the new SAT® Test

The Nuts and Bolts of the new SAT® Test

My youngest niece graduates from high school in a couple of months, and in talking with her about the future, I had a chance to reflect on my preparation for college, specifically on the admissions process and testing requirements.  Test prep for me was a family affair; I spent numerous hours under the tutelage of my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends with the expectation of gaining the best possible SAT test score (1600 at that time) to seal my entrance into the higher-learning institution of my choice. I remember those “into-the-night” study sessions filled with flashcards, study packets, and practice tests that would make my stomach cringe. Although I didn’t quite score the magic number, I persevered, as many students do, to receive my prize – coveted acceptance letters. Funny though, once in college, I don’t remember hearing my professors use the words penultimate, unctuous, or vituperate in any lectures, but rest assured, if they had, I would have been ready!

Throughout its history, there have been several controversies surrounding the SAT test, including two prominent topics:  whether the test is culturally or racially biased and how well the scores predict college success. Regardless of your side on these debates, the recent announcement that the College Board is making sweeping changes to the assessment signifies the ongoing transformation of the American education system to meet the demand for college- and career-ready students and to increase accessibility for all. The changes exemplify a real-world application of knowledge, critical in mastering 21st century skills utilized in the global economy. Here are the eight changes that will debut in the 2016 test.

  1. Relevant Words in Context: Students will be asked to interpret the meaning of words based on the context of the passage in which they appear.
  2. Command of Evidence: Students will demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources.
  3. Essay Analyzing a Source: Students will read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument and support their claims with evidence from the passage.
  4. Math Focused on Three Key Areas: Math will focus in depth on the essential areas of Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math.
  5. Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts: Students will engage with questions grounded in the real world, questions directly related to the work performed in college and careers.
  6. Analysis in Science and in Social Studies: Students will be asked to apply their reading, writing, language, and math skills to answer questions in science, history, and social studies contexts.
  7. Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation: Students will encounter an excerpt from one of the Founding Documents or a text from the ongoing Great Global Conversation about freedom, justice, and human dignity.
  8. No Penalty for Wrong Answers: Students will earn points for the questions they answer correctly, encouraging them to give the best answer.

As I review the changes compared to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning framework, the new SAT test reflects  what has been used as a foundation to “disrupt” the way teaching and learning occur in the classroom to positively engage students. With the changes, I am hopeful that learners will embrace the challenge of the SAT test knowing that the design aligns closely to their daily school experience and that the results will indicate a true next step to ensure success throughout their higher education goals. Say goodbye to the flashcards!


Partnership for 21st Century Learning:

College Board: