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Everything Old is New Again: 2016 SAT

Monday, June 15, 2015


Part 1: It’s Not the End of the World

As many of you are aware, the SAT is a big part of the U.S. college admissions process, not to mention a part of the process for many non-U.S. universities, including several here in Thailand. As a result, it winds up being the source of a lot of admission-related stress. And that’s just in a normal admissions cycle. Over the coming year, however, things will be anything but normal, as ETS has announced a major overhaul of the SAT, which is due to be launched in PSAT (“Preliminary” or “Practice” SAT) form this October, and as the new SAT Reasoning test in March, 2016. As a result, many people have gone from just being stressed to full-blown freaking out. Sensationalistic headlines such as “New SAT to End Test Prep!” abound, and everyone from teachers to counselors to admissions representatives (not to mention students) is wondering what it means to them. Let the panic begin!
Chill, folks. This isn’t the first time the SAT has changed; in fact, it is one of several times the test has been re-engineered over the years. The last time this happened was in 2005, and we quickly realized that, for all the hype, this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as big a deal as everyone was saying. Some types of questions disappeared, a not-really-new section was added (basically the SAT Writing Subject Test was attached as the Writing section of the “new” test), and some new passage types were added. We adjusted, and life went on.
So, is that what’s going to happen this time?
Well, yes and no. While it’s true that this is a far more major overhaul than the one in 2005, we’re not exactly in uncharted territory as far as preparing students for this test (well, at least some of us, anyway). To understand this, have a look at the SAT’s “competition.”
While the SAT may be ubiquitous with the college application process, it is not the only game in town when it comes to standardized tests. While not the juggernaut that the SAT is, the ACT has been steadily gaining popularity over the years, to the point it has started to worry the folks at ETS. What about the ACT has caused this worry? Is it a concern that the SAT really isn’t measuring/predicting anything apart from family income? Not at all! That’s been going on for decades and they haven’t bothered to care about that yet. Fewer people taking the SAT means fewer registration fees paid, which means less money earned by ETS. ETS loves money. Therefore, in order to minimize their losses, the folks at ETS looked at what was gaining in popularity, namely the ACT, and basically adopted much of its format.
Want to know the details of the changes? Stay tuned for the next post!
If you have any other questions, let me know. I’m always happy to talk (which may explain all of those student migraines)!

Alec Goldman
US Preparation Programs
 

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