“Keep it real.” Has this slang sentiment found its way all the way up to college admissions tests? Continuing in our series examining changes to the SAT exam, students taking the exam starting in 2016 will notice a movement in all sections towards real-life application in each subject area. The College Board website states its aim to make new SAT questions more directly relevant to the work typically done in college and careers. Great idea, but not a unique one.
Interestingly, the idea of making the SAT test more “real” seems to inadvertently reference a book many of us in the field of higher education know very well as “the red book”. The Real ACT Prep Guide has been the #1 choice for students prepping for the SAT’s competitor test for many years (published by ACT, Inc.) Did you know that in 2011 the ACT surpassed the SAT for the first time in number of test takers? With millions of dollars on the line, the SAT is late to the party in terms of incorporating these recent modifications to their test. Students are likely to come across data in their majors, and demonstrating competence with charts and graphs is obviously a critical component of career readiness, particularly in the physical and social sciences. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad the SAT is now bringing this particular change. It’s just that I suspect marketing had as much to do with the decision as student gains.
In the Writing and Evidence-Based Reading sections, questions will include more samples from literary nonfiction in addition to fiction and literature. Brand new: nonfiction sections will also include graphs, charts, and verses. It only makes sense that these ancillary forms of “writing” show up on college entrance exams, which the ACT has known since its inception.
Math sections will include more multistep applications in problem solving. Again in a bow to the ACT, science will show up more on those questions, with real-life circumstances being featured. This move toward practicality and applicability marks a positive evolutionary lunge for the SAT, as students will be encouraged to develop and showcase their ability to think, not simply execute predigested formulas.
That said, in “keeping it real” let’s hope educators in math and English classrooms coast to coast implement strategies in their lesson plans to be sure students are ready for this “real” SAT.
For further info from the New York Times on the changing numbers of students taking each of the two tests, visit http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/08/04/education/edlife/where-the-sat-and-act-dominate.html?_r=0