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Students React to New SAT College Entrance Exam

SAT Exam Makeover
Students React to New SAT College Entrance Exam
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For VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

The new SAT college entrance exam has arrived.

In March, hundreds of thousands of high school students took the redesigned test. The exam is getting some positive reviews from some early test-takers.

High school students who took the test said the new SAT is more straightforward.

The new exam focuses less on vocabulary words. It focuses more on everyday learning and analysis by students. On the old SAT, students lost points if they guessed the wrong answer. On the new SAT, students are not penalized for guessing.

The College Board is the organization that produces the SAT. It says more than 463,000 test-takers signed up to take the new SAT in March. This number is a small increase from a year ago.

For now, the College Board is only offering the exam to students applying for scholarships and financial aid. The exam will be open to all students in May.

What’s new?

The new SAT continues to test reading, writing and math, with an emphasis on analysis. Gone are some of those unusual vocabulary words. Test-takers will see more common words used in the classroom. Students will have to show that they understand meaning in different contexts.

In math, students will see more algebra and problem-solving. They will no longer be tested on a wide range of math concepts. But the use of calculators is limited to certain questions.

Overall, there are fewer questions — 154 on the new test plus one for the essay. The old test had 171 questions.

Students will have a choice about whether to write the essay.

A perfect score goes back to 1,600 with a separate score for the essay.

Some early reviews

Brian Keyes is a third-year student at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C.

“There aren’t as many questions where it’s trying to trick you … It was much more straightforward,” he said

His classmate Isabel Suarez said, “I liked it better than the old one. I thought that it was way more applicable to what we’ve been learning in school. The English was a lot easier for me than it was with the old one.”

Suarez said she enjoyed the reading section.

“My AP English class definitely really prepared me for it. I honestly enjoyed the grammar part because I like to pick out problems in writing. It was pretty fun actually.”

AP stands for advanced placement. Students might test out of college courses if their grades and test scores from AP are high.

Why did they change the test?

This was the first change in the SAT since 2005. The head of the College Board says the new test has more familiar reading passages, vocabulary words and math.

David Coleman is the president and chief executive officer of the College Board.

“The sum of the redesign of the test is to make it much more like the work that kids are already doing in high school,” he said. Coleman added that the test was changed so that more students will feel like they have a chance to succeed.

With fewer questions on the new test, Coleman said, there is more time for each of the reading and math questions.

Tips from the experts

Lee Weiss is Kaplan Test Prep’s vice president of college admissions programs. He has some advice for students taking the new SAT.

“If you’ve been preparing and putting in your study time, then you should go in confident. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t perform well,” he said.

Weiss says students should not skip the essay. Many of the top universities look at the essay. It is an important part of their admissions process.

“Make sure you are writing a good, structured essay that answers the prompt,” said Weiss. “Make sure that you are varying your word choice and your sentence structure.”

Ned Johnson is the president of PrepMatters, an SAT preparation company. He said students should not be too creative or artistic in their writing. Students should write in a clear, analytical style.

Johnson says the math problems on the new test have a lot more words than before.

The College Board has teamed up with online educator Khan Academy to offer SAT practice with the new exam — for free — to all students through quizzes and practice tests. The tests are available online.

I’m John Russell

Adam Brock adapted this story for Learning English from an Associated Press report.


Words in This Story

straightforward adj. easy to do or understand : not complicated

analysisn. an explanation of the nature and meaning of something

penalize v. to punish (someone or something) for breaking a rule or a law

contextn. the words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning

trickv. to deceive (someone)

APadj. Advanced Placement, a college-level course offered in high school

prompt n. a writing topic on a test

varying adj. to be different or to become different

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