Last chance to take “old style” SAT Katerina Maylock, with Capital Educators, writes on the board as she teaches a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Last chance to take “old style” SAT
Lexile

The current version of the SAT college entrance exam is ending in January. Hundreds of thousands of students nationwide will sit, squirm or stress through the nearly four-hour reading, writing and math test. A revamped version debuts in March.
 
Sixteen-year-old Alex Cohen, a junior at the Miami Country Day School in Florida, thinks he's solid on math, but he's been studiously cramming on vocabulary words to get ready for the exam.
 
"I don't want to study for the new one, so hopefully I'll do well on this one," he said.
 
Alex said his college adviser was worried about students being "guinea pigs" for the SAT that rolls out March 5 and told him to focus on Jan. 23 exam. "There's a lot of vocabulary on this test so I've been trying to memorize as many words as I can per day," said Alex, who wants to study business and finance in college.
 
The College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the SAT, says more than 351,000 students registered to take the test. That's a nearly 10 percent increase over the number of students registered for last January's exam.
 
Looking ahead to March, the College Board says the revamped exam is more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward.
 
"Everything that's in the redesigned SAT is knowledge and skills that kids are learning in classrooms every single day. It's not left field," Cyndie Schmeiser, the board's chief of assessment, said. "No surprises. No mystery."
 
The test had last been revised in 2005.
 
The new makeover focuses less on arcane vocabulary words like "lachrymose" and more on real-world learning and analysis by students. There is also no longer a penalty for guessing on the redesigned exam and the essay will be optional. Students who decide not to write an essay would see about 50 minutes shaved off the length of the test.
 
Phil Pine, who runs the test preparation company, Capital Educators, in the Washington metropolitan area, says he's told his students not to rush to take the test in January, since they won't be able to take the same test again if they don't score well.
 
But with so much material available on the current test, it's more familiar, so Pine said some students have told him, "this feels safer to me."
 
His advice for juniors has been to wait for the new SAT or take its competitor, the ACT, unless there's a compelling reason to take the test now - such as students who need early scores for coaches, specific academic programs or for those who spent months studying and feel ready.
 
College counselor Phillip Trout in Minnesota says very few of his students at Minnetonka High School are opting for the Jan. 23 SAT and he's advising them not to take the first administration of the new SAT.
 
"We're telling them to take the ACT," says Trout. "Let somebody else in America be the guinea pig."
 
Students at Minnetonka High School had already leaned heavily in preference toward the ACT anyway. About 90 percent of seniors had taken the ACT last year. Down the road, though, Trout says more of his students may embrace the SAT, with its shift to test subject mastery and its similarity to ACT.
 
Testing tutor Ned Johnson says he's seeing students sidestepping this SAT switchover altogether by just taking the ACT.
 
"The challenge with the change in the test is that it basically just stresses people out," says Johnson, president of PrepMatters in Bethesda, Maryland. "The idea that students might have to prepare for the current SAT and then again for the new redesigned SAT is not particularly appealing."
 
The new SAT will continue to test reading, writing and math, with an emphasis on analysis. Some of the obscure vocabulary words that left kids memorizing flash cards for endless hours will vanish. Instead, more widely known words used in classroom learning will appear on the test and students will have to demonstrate their ability to determine meaning in different contexts.
 
There are some other significant changes, such as in math, students will see more algebra and problem solving and the use of calculators will be limited. The essay portion will be optional and the top score will be 1,600 with a separate score for the essay.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was the SAT changed again?
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COMMENTS (108)
  • mirandaf-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:36 a.m.

    This will either make the SAT more telling of actual understanding in the classroom and real world situations, or it will be far too simple and will lose its credibility against the ACT. Either way, I'm still mad the new SAT and I will be sharing a birthday.

  • arianao-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:38 a.m.

    The SAT was changed again because the College Board stated that this new test represents more of what students have studied in high school and the skills they need to succeed during and after college.

  • ians-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:40 a.m.

    I can't wait to take the SAT! (Sarcasm by the way) However, I feel that the absence of the testing of words that I am confident I will never use is an improvement. I am strong in math and science, but not vocabulary. So, I am glad the vocabulary tests designed for the loquacious are finalized.

  • sahqueenw-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:41 a.m.

    I honestly think that the SAT should stay the same because it has become a custom for certain students to begin studying already and to keep changing it up on us really isn't helping anymore. Standardized testing doesn't prove anything anyway, so why waste our time changing something anyway? Unless it's easier do not change it.

  • jordanb-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:41 a.m.

    Well if the new SAT is generally easier than the original than I wouldn't mind the remake, we might even like it more after a few years of using it.

  • aaroni-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:46 a.m.

    I find it calming that they are leaving out some of the older more complex words, but that puts people on an equal playing field with less opportunity to be that much "better." Its also interesting that the scoring has changed with AN OPTIONAL ESSAY. Its gonna be weird how colleges will treat that extra part of the test. All in all, i'm not sure how i feel about this, lets wait and see how the Guinea Pigs do...

  • robertc-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:46 a.m.

    This article is so interesting. The SAT change because they thought changing it will be better but instead it is just making people more stressed out.

  • justinl-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:47 a.m.

    I feel that in today's society the form of education is messed up. The fact that they are changing the SAT format is not surprising considering how discombobulated how school system is in its current form.

  • robertj-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:50 a.m.

    The SAT was changed again to fit a larger demographic of students because as the importance of a college education increases, more students will be required to take the exam and need to get a good enough score in order to attend their desired university. I agree with this change because it will allow more people to get score totals closer to the max, especially with the essay being optional which accommodates people that when answering a topic question use standard vocabulary over the scholar level vocabulary along with people that find it harder to convey their thoughts in writing.

  • osajis-pay
    1/27/2016 - 10:52 a.m.

    I feel as if the only way for me to be able to see this situation in a good way is if the test dials down, its ludicrous knowledge requirement. The extensive studying that is required to past the test puts too much pressure one those planning on taking the test.

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