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Recent SAT Changes Emphasize Classroom Learning and Test Prep Equity

By Dan Obregon, Vice President, Product Management & Marketing, Hobsons

Filed under: News & Events, Test Prep

The College Board made a big media splash last month when they announced details behind the new SAT, which they plan to introduce in April of 2016. While the changes had been imminent for quite some time, few details had been shared publicly, prior to this announcement.

According to the College Board, the key changes are as follows:

  • The redesigned SAT will first be given in spring 2016.
  • The SAT will be offered in print and, at selected locations, on computer.
  • There will be three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the (optional) Essay.
  • The length of the SAT will be about three hours, with an added 50 minutes for the essay. Precise timing will be finalized after further research.
  • The exam will once again be scored on a 400- to 1600-point scale. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section will each be scored on a 200- to 800-point scale. Scores for the Essay will be reported separately.

The new test is intended to be more in line with what students are learning in the classroom. In fact, it addresses some common concerns with the current version of the SAT with respect to its relevance to real-life scenarios. For example, essay questions will be grounded in real-world context and require deeper analysis, while reading passages will include historical documents, such as the Bill of Rights.

Many are embracing these updates as a better indication of college preparedness. In theory, these changes will make it easier for students to prepare for the exam because they’ll be able to focus on learning the material they need to master, instead of being distracted by memorizing “tips and tricks.”

Related to the new test, the College Board also announced a new partnership with Khan Academy to deliver test preparation – for free – to any student around the world. This partnership represents a tremendous opportunity to provide equitable access to test prep for students in need.

What does this mean for test prep solutions that are used in schools today? There’s no shortage of free test prep solutions on the market, but the new SAT will mean that test prep providers who work directly with schools will have to adapt as well. Many schools are still responsible for ensuring their students are positioned to maximize their potential on tests like the ACT and SAT, so free “set it and forget it” solutions may not offer the level of insight they need to help students.

Frankly, these changes raise the bar for test prep providers (Hobsons included) in terms of the value they’ll need to deliver to students and the programs they offer to schools and districts. It can no longer be about tips and tricks, but about delivering actual instruction.

Our own test prep solution, PrepMe, has always been founded on providing quality instruction rather than emphasizing gimmicks. And with administrator reporting tools, plus training, consulting, and support services available to schools and districts, now more than ever, educators need to consider these questions when evaluating free test prep solutions:

  • How will they deliver test prep programs that allow teachers to personalize instruction for students based on their unique needs?
  • How will teachers get real-time feedback on student performance and manage classroom activity?
  • How can school administrators easily access reporting on the progress of their test preparation efforts and be able to determine if students are taking advantage of the resources available to them?
  • How will they deliver robust, yet scalable solutions that meet their reporting needs without adding significant cost or sacrifice access and equity for students in need?
  • How will schools ensure that teachers and counselors receive the proper training and support to effectively implement a test prep solution in the classroom?
  • How will those programs be incorporated into more comprehensive college and career readiness plans?

With the new SAT and the new partnership with Khan Academy, the College Board is making great strides in addressing common concerns over equity and access. We’re excited about the prospect of having college entrance assessments that are reflective of what students are doing in the classroom. We believe fundamentally in making sure that students have access to the resources they need to succeed, while still empowering educators to make informed decisions about student performance.

This blog post was originally published on the Hobsons Education Blog.

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