This spring, high school students throughout the U.S. will be introduced to an entirely redesigned SAT as the College Board, a nonprofit organization that designs and administers the SAT, has drastically changed one of the most popular college aptitude tests in the country.
Beginning in March, students will take a redesigned SAT that, according to the College Board, does away with the difficult vocabulary section and adds in more straightforward questions based on real-world college and career concepts.
Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at College Board, said the changes to the test came after the discovery that of the 1.7 million students who took the SAT in 2015, only 42 percent were ready to enter college without the need for remedial courses—a statistic she called “staggering.”
“As we stepped back, we thought we needed to rethink assessment and not only help more kids become prepared for college or career, but we need to connect them with opportunities to help them navigate that pathway to college, which is not always a clear one,” Schmeiser said. “We redesigned the SAT to focus very clearly and specifically on those skills that are necessary for college readiness and success. These are the skills that students are learning every day in the classroom, but we are focusing very clearly on really what matters. We are not measuring everything students learn, but those that research has told us are most important.”
Schmeiser said the College Board stays on top of curriculum changes at the high school level and regularly adjusts the test to follow those trends. The last time the test received a major change was in 2005.
New test, new features
The new SAT, which will be administered for the first time to Leander ISD students beginning in March, will continue to test in math, reading and writing. But the way those areas will be tested has changed, Schmeiser said.
“The test is a little shorter—there are fewer questions—but we are still focused on testing kids’ college-readiness skills in reading and writing and in math, and there is also an optional essay. The subject areas are still the same, but the approach within and what we are measuring in those areas have changed quite a bit,” she said.
“We thought to make it the most consumer-friendly, we thought making [the essay portion] optional or allowing each higher-education system to decide whether to require it gave our constituencies the most flexibility,” Schmeiser said.
The College Board also changed the way students study for the test. Instead of paying for costly SAT practice courses and study materials, the College Board partnered with the Kahn Academy to now offer SAT practice materials online for free.
“Over three-quarters of a million kids have already gone into satpractice.org and have practiced with over 15 million problems,” Schmeiser said. “We are getting feedback from kids stating that the new test is more of a reflection of what they have learned in school. We are getting a lot of reinforcement from kids and colleges as well. Frankly, they are finding the questions to be very clear and straightforward, so we are excited and very optimistic and are looking forward to the first test date in March.”
Lisa Brittain, LISD’s director of college and career readiness, said the redesigned SAT more accurately represents what students are studying in school.
“It’s great that they have revamped it,” Brittain said. “It is really a lot more aligned with what is going on in our classrooms.”
The new test is also more aligned with the TEKS, or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, state curriculum requirements, she said.
LISD has provided students and parents with ample resources to assist with preparation, Brittain said, such as teaching students how to read their test scores and how to set up accounts with the College Board and Kahn Academy, which offers practice exams. The district also partnered with test-preparation agency More Than a Teacher to talk to students about test-taking strategies and other relevant information, Brittain said.
“[More Than a Teacher staff] have a level of knowledge and experience that we can’t match,” she said. “I feel if there’s any edge I can help our parents with, I feel … that [the coaching] from them has been invaluable.”
Brittain said resources such as these contribute to SAT-readiness.
“All juniors should be ready,” she said. “With some coaching and understanding [about]… how to take the test, our kids—based on what they have experienced in our core courses—should feel that they are prepared to do this.”
Additional reporting by Lyndsey Taylor