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The New SAT

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The SAT may be the most important test a student will ever take. When it comes to determining college admissions and awarding scholarships, no single exam is more important. It has recently undergone some major changes, and every college-bound student must pay close attention to the new format. Partly because of criticism that the old SAT failed as a indicator of college success, the College Board (the makers of the test) have recast the assessment instead as a measure of ...

The SAT may be the most important test a student will ever take. When it comes to determining college admissions and awarding scholarships, no single exam is more important. It has recently undergone some major changes, and every college-bound student must pay close attention to the new format. Partly because of criticism that the old SAT failed as a indicator of college success, the College Board (the makers of the test) have recast the assessment instead as a measure of achievement and college preparation. Its new name, the SAT Reasoning Test, reflects its new emphasis on critical thinking skills needed for college. The changes go far beyond the name. Overall, students are likely to find the new version more challenging than the old. The new SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long and is divided into three parts: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. Each section contains important revisions from the old version. In the Reading section, the much hated analogy questions have been removed. Instead, students will answer critical thinking questions on a series of passages, ranging in length from sentences to long passages. The Math section now includes Algebra II level problems, in addition to geometry and many other high school level problems. The College Board says that this is to keep pace with the ever more sophisticated high school curriculums, but many students are likely to be unprepared for such advanced work. The multiple choice section and the student response questions of the old version have not been removed. The Writing section will cover grammar usage as well as essay writing skills. Students are allowed 25 minutes for the essay. This may be one of the more worrisome changes for students. Anyone hoping to bluff their way through this part of the test will be disappointed. Two graders will read each essay, and judge it on how well the student's thesis is developed and supported. Certainly, the addition of the essay makes the SAT a better measure of the skills needed for college level work, but this is a skill that many students just do not pick up from the standard English class. Clearly, the changes to the SAT make additional preparation, beyond regular course work, a necessity. The simple test taking techniques taught in so many tradition prep courses will no longer be adequate. Smart students will seek out prep courses that also offer tutoring on weak subjects, stress the fundamentals of writing good essays, and provide opportunities to take practice tests multiple times.
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