Ivy Bound Test Prep Blog

What to Expect from the New SAT

The format of the SAT has changed in many ways, both good and bad, depending on a given student’s strengths. Designed to prepare students for higher education, the standardized test has evolved greatly over its 90-year existence. Once again, students taking the test in March will be faced with a new format. We break down what has changed, what remains the same, and provide a brief overview of each section below:

What’s Changed?

In the past, each multiple choice question had five answers to select from, but the new test only features four answers. However, most questions will require more steps to reach an answer.
Additionally, students would not be penalized for skipping a question, but they would lose points for getting an answer wrong. On the new test, students will not be penalized for choosing the wrong answer. This makes it beneficial to randomly guess when unsure.

blog-testingSentence Completion and Short Reading Comprehension are no longer included on the test. Reading passages now include complex vocabulary and require critical thinking skills. Some Reading passages also include scientific charts. This makes the new SAT a slight simulation of the ACT’s “Science Reasoning” section.


Ivy Bound Students Ready to Roll for the New SAT

Last weekend’s SAT marked the end of an 11-year era for the three-section “2400” SAT. Starting in March, the SAT reverts to a 1600 scale, with students graded on 200 – 800 scales on Math and the amalgamated Verbal (technically called “Reading and Writing and Language” for now).

blog-gradIvy Bound students will be ready. Many in the class of 2017 have been studying for the new SAT since December, and a good number of sophomores (Class of 2018) have begun their study to target the March, May and June SATs.

“March is the ideal target” says Ivy Bound’s Founder Mark Greenstein. “It gives students more chances to test and let super-scoring take effect”. Super-scoring is the process of colleges crediting the best Math and best Verbal scores from a multitude of tests. All northeast colleges and the vast majority outside the northeast super-score the SAT, making it advantageous to test multiple times.

Some students will prep hard, do well on their first SAT and be “one and done”. “Everyone loves the one-and-done result”, says Greenstein. “It gives students more time for academics, sports, driver-ed, and other extracurricular activities. We have always encouraged our students to prep well enough to potentially make their first SAT their last.”


Will The SAT Be Harder To Study In 2016?

When students registered to take the SAT in March and sit down to complete the test, they will be faced with a new, restructured exam. Once mandatory, the writing section is now an optional essay that only requires 50 minutes of testing time, and math has become more specific. The revised math section will include more advanced topics such as logarithms, imaginary numbers, and high level exponents. In addition, your skills will be tested both with and without a calculator in certain areas. Grammar is a new addition to the SAT in a section called “Writing and Language,” replacing the sentence completions section. The reading comprehension section pairs passages with information graphics, challenging students to interpret meaning beyond the words. The vocabulary section is now incorporated into reading comprehension, but it is still important to study the definitions of more difficult SAT words.

studyingThe alternative offers little comfort: The ACT has long been harder to study for, since it tests English, Math, Science, Reading and Writing. That is broader still than the SAT, which tests science only tangentially and has a more straightforward essay.

The advantage of taking the ACT is consistency. Students can study now using materials that the ACT has put out for years. For SAT, there are no past actual tests, and just four simulated ones. Since we recommend students make use of ten or more tests (at least five for practice tests and five that are broken into pieces for targeted study) the ACT’s consistency advantage is significant. This is further advanced if a student needs to take SAT Subject Tests this spring. The dates for the May and June Subject Tests prevent students from taking the SAT on those same dates. As a result, students studying for the SAT in March who want to take Subject Tests in May and June have to wait until October to take the SAT.


Should Schools use the SAT for Assessment?

Wendy Lecker’s recently published argument should hit home.  Let me amplify.

Using the SAT or ACT tests meant to show a high schooler’s aptitude for college challenges, if used to instead assess teachers, school boards, or administrators, is a perversion.

Why does this multi-state move to SAT and ACT for its assessments have so much weight?

Some say it’s because of over-testing.  Moving to the SAT/ACT, which almost all college-bound students must take anyhow, “kills two birds with one stone”.   Others say it’s a test that many students are studying for anyhow, so they are more “invested in their own success” and the outcomes are more representative.  This is a better answer, but it’s still not sufficient.

blog-graduatesMy answer — it’s a new fad that’s caught the fancy of the education establishment.  This is sad, for many of us don’t think education establishment gets it.  Remember, the education establishment has been prone to endorse things that are trendy.  Supported by fuzzy “research shows”, educators have embraced at times “open classrooms”, Stanford-9s, SBAC, and various other assessments.


College Interviewing Goes Both Ways

In response to the Hartford Courant article:
Why I Quit As A Yale Alumni Interviewer, by Ben Orlin
Mark Greenstein, founder & Lead Instructor of Ivy Bound Test Prep wrote:

Blog-Tower-at-YaleMr. Orlin is an inappropriate representative of Yale and the college selection process at elite schools. The interview is the one opportunity for students to put their true selves before an evaluating admissions person. Since application essays routinely involve adult guidance, interviews are the best way a college has of knowing the student “behind the transcript”.

Mr. Orlin’s description of his interview process shows he squandered the opportunity. “You take a smart, ambitious 17-year-old out for hot chocolate, ask him about his life, and then report back to the university ‘Yup, this is another great kid’ ” has all the markings of a government bureaucrat’s rubber stamp. With this blase, vapid interviewing, you are not allowing a extra-meritorious student to stand out.

An interviewer who takes the job seriously helps discern the depth of a student’s learning, the passion fueling a student’s extracurricular activities, and even the resourcefulness a student can show (or not) when posed a challenging question.


Can The SAT “Level The Playing Field?”

Answer: It won’t.

Spy-Games-HandshakeMost students will find excelling on the redesigned SAT more difficult. That owes to the injection of higher level math, scientific evaluations in reading, and analysis required on essays. Whereas the SAT tested skills that mainstream students are taught in at latest 9th grade, students are about to be tested on math usually not introduced until 11th grade, and in some schools NEVER introduced. Whereas the SAT tested reading and vocabulary exclusively, it is now punctuating its reading test with scientific interpretations of graphs and charts. Whereas the SAT essay asked for students to make an argument, it now requires them to analyze arguments others put forth, using rhetorical terms many students have never heard of.

Yet the Redesigned SAT was touted as “leveling the playing field”. How can is be? Here are two reasons why this is consistent.


Do Top Colleges Bring Students Higher Earnings?

In response to the WSJ article:
College Applications, Parental Exasperations, by Robert Scherrer
Kevin Weaver, Instructor and Test Prep Developer, and
Mark Greenstein, founder of Ivy Bound Test Prep wrote:

Prof. Scherrer’s sad-but-humorous anecdotes are revealing and laudable. But we take issue with one of his contentions, perhaps the most important one: the earnings clout that a top college brings. Many studies have revealed the higher earnings associated with these colleges and universities.


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