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Our head tutor's tips, tricks and thoughts for all your SAT, ACT, and US College Prep needs.

What I'll Miss from the old SAT

Elizabeth von Nardroff

I’ve had a number of students contacting me recently wanting to take the current SAT before its final run in January 2016. This has got me thinking about the current test and things I will miss about it.  I happen to be one of those people fortunate enough to love what they do and so, yes – I grow very fond of tests I tutor for, warts and all. So while I understand the need for the changes to the SAT (more on that in a future blog post), I’ll focus on what I will miss and not miss about the current SAT. So what are some things I’ll miss and why?

Vocabulary: Ok, I’ll admit, it’s one of the least popular parts of the current SAT. But if you prep for this part of the current SAT, you walk away with a hefty vocabulary that will benefit you for life. So while I don’t spend precious lesson time reviewing vocab, I do encourage students to increase their vocabularies, and provide different options depending on their learning styles – from daily reading passages ‘entrenched’ with a ‘plethora’ of vocab in context to flashcards to synonym trees.  I know is that I’ve got hundreds of students now in college (and beyond!) utilising their impressive vocabularies in both writing and speaking. So despite most people welcoming this change, I for one will miss it.

Math puzzles: Current SAT math questions are notoriously not anything like what you’d see on a high school math test. Rather, they are puzzle questions which you might need math to solve – some of which you need to roll up your sleeves before tackling.  I find them but intriguing to wrestle with and satisfying to when students figure them out. A few tips on these – if you can foil or factor a problem – do so! It will often lead you closer to the solution.  Also, check out my video here on testing values and looking for patterns. So while the new SAT test covers more math topics (hello Trig and Imaginary Numbers!), it will feature fewer of the ‘puzzle-y’ math questions.

What I won’t miss?

Current essay: This I’m glad to see the end of – no two ways about it. Besides the grammar -- which is important and like vocabulary,  will benefit students beyond test day -- I find the current essay not a good exercise in the type of writing students will be using in college. Its focus on persuasion over sustenance and critical thinking makes it less useful in determining a student’s writing abilities as will be required in college.  Indeed, the essay and the Writing score in general are often completely ignored by colleges. Even the book, ‘Fiske Guide to Colleges’ doesn’t include the Writing section in the scores required. Apparently, the best thing the essay is good for is to establish that a student’s application essays match the person taking the test.

So while I’m looking forward to the new SAT and the material it will be covering, these next few months will have me appreciating aspects of the old test and making sure my students get the best scores on it while they can. Sadly, my last SAT Online Course will be running in September –November 2015. To sign up or for more information, please click here. Also check the site for my ACT Courses and future new SAT Courses starting in November.