I am giddy with excitement about the 2016 updated SAT! Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a homeschool friendly exam would be created.
In the late 1800s, a group of leading American universities formed the College Entrance Examination Board, and working together they administered the first standardized exam in 1901. For the first time, students could take one entrance exam for several universities instead of taking a separate exam for each university to which they applied. The SAT from its inception has been an attempt to provide colleges with a tool to identify potential candidates for their universities. It remains so today. Generally speaking, the SAT is an “aptitude” (Standard Aptitude Test) which measures critical thinking skills. It is similar to the IQ test which puts more emphasis on cognition (problem-solving) than upon epistemology (information). The ACT, by the way, is an “achievement” or epistemologically based exam, much like the Iowa Basics or Stanford Achievement Exams.
Universities use the SAT to predict college performance. It is, undoubtedly, pretty good at doing that. Occasionally students who do poorly on the SAT do well in college, but almost never do high scoring SAT students perform poorly in college. Incidentally, that is another difference between the aptitude/IQ SAT and the ACT: the SAT is a predictor of college performance and the ACT is an assessment of high school performance.
The 2016 SAT is changed in form but not in substance. It will still be an “aptitude test” and it will take about 3.5 hours. The test will include three sections — evidence-based reading and writing, math and an optional essay.
- Instead of arcane “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), the vocabulary definitions on the new exam will be those of words commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.” Does that mean the vocabulary on the SAT is changed? Not really. Does that mean preparation should be different? Not really. Students should still read good books and learn Greek and Latin roots.
- The essay, required since 2005, will become optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze the ways its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument. Ok, but I bet you that the best schools will still require it. We homeschoolers hope so because presently homeschoolers are the best writers in the country. It is fairly easy to improve a score on the writing portion of the coaching resistant.
- The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated. I like that. Nice. I cannot prove it statistically, but most of my homeschool students are good guessers. I think it is related to their calm, Christ-centered approach to the exam.
- The overall scoring will return to the old 1,600-point scale, based on a top score of 800 in reading and 800 in math. The essay will have a separate score.
- Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
- Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen. Love it!
- Every exam will include a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Well, it is about time! No one reads historical documents more than homeschoolers!
In conclusion, these changes are not substantially different from the changes that were made in 2005. The company that sells my family milk put a new cover on its carton last January. Does that mean that the company is different? No. Does that mean that the milk is different? No. Does that mean that anything is improved? Yes -somewhat.