English and Math and the New SAT
There are big changes in the SAT. What does it mean to you? Let me explain the differences in the new SAT sections for you.
When you read about the new English section, there are three key phrases you need to understand. First, they refer to “relevant words” which means they are focusing on more widely-used vocabulary words from the workplace. Second, they talk about “evidence-based reading and writing.” That means the test will have a different feel, because students will need to support their answers by indicating where they found the answer in the comprehension passage. Third, readings used will include “Founding Documents or the Great Global Conversation.” This means students will be reading documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, or Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
The new SAT will have an optional essay. It will also be a longer essay - 50 minutes long instead of 25 minutes. This will be an essay analyzing a source, so it’s not just about writing but also about understanding. Currently the ACT test has an optional essay, but many colleges require it anyway. I expect that to be true for this test as well. Many colleges will require the essay, so I suggest you prepare your child for the essay. Preparing your children to write well is one of the best things you can do for their long term success in college and career!
The new SAT will narrow the scope of the math tested. It will focus on just 3 things: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. To me, it sounds like geometry will be an after-thought, and a thorough understanding of mathematics and algebra should help students score well on the test. Calculators will only be allowed in certain math sections, so there will be an emphasis on mental math, and understanding math in the real world.
Educate for Understanding
The best test preparation will always be a good education. In the elementary school years, focus on reading, writing, math, and penmanship. In the middle school years, continue to focus on the core subjects, and include keyboarding. The SAT will become computer-based so typing skills will be critical to help them be prepared. Make sure you are teaching math with a curriculum that makes sense to your child and continue moving forward, one level each year. In high school, teach your child to write a complete essay in 50 minutes.
Choose the best college admission test for your child. Give a sample of the SAT and a sample of the ACT at home and see which test makes your child look smarter. Then have them study for that test and plan to take the optional essay if at all possible. The best test preparation uses real test questions.