Based on the inputs from member Universities, US-based College Board, has redesigned the SAT test format. Prachi Rege gets the details on the changes in the test, how to write an honest essay, and the X factor that will help applicants stand out.
Every decade the SAT test which is required to qualify for undergraduate study in US universities, undergoes a change in format. This year, College Board, the US-based not-for-profit organisation which owns and publishes the test, has launched the new look of the competitive exam, taken by students studying either in class XI or XII in IB and IGCSE schools in India.
To be rolled out in May 2016, the redesigned SAT has been changed on the basis of inputs received from Universities associated as members with the College Board. “We did our homework with the institutions to understand which part of the test was relevant to college and career life of the students, and which was redundant,” informs Lisa Jain, representative, College Board India.
A total of eight changes (see box) have been made in the SAT. According to Jain, “the test focuses on making the candidate more college ready than just showing off their knowledge to the examiners.” Two of these changes come as good news for SAT candidates of 2016. First, there is no penalty for wrong answers, and second, an extra five minutes have been added to the essay writing section, making the total duration of the SAT three hours and 50 minutes.
A honest essay
While most students are relatively good at cracking the Math, Science and critical thinking section of the SAT, they are flummoxed when it comes to the essay writing. This results in essays that take an academic tone, filled only with high-level English jargon, with no real association to the topic. An essay tests, a candidates’ creativity and not word power. “Essay is the only way the examiner gets to hear an applicants’ real voice. It is the piece which makes the difference when all else is equal,” explains Iunia Pasca, academic head, Prep Zone, a Singapore-based test prep company, operating in India for the last two years.
According to Pasca, students must realise that essay writing is not about ‘What they (examiner) want to hear?’ but ‘What do I have to say?’ Hence, it is important to focus on empowering your essay with real life stories and anecdotes and not Thesaurus. “Examiners are trained to spot honest, authentic, real and natural tone in text,” she informs.
Enhance your application
According to Aarti Kukreja, study abroad head, Prep Zone, “It’s not just about SAT scores but also about your school life profile that gets you in a good undergraduate school in the US.” Most Indian students focus on volunteering with an NGO, just to get a certification, which can be attached to their college application packet. However, Kukreja states that this not necessarily helps in impressing the admission office. “The real X-factor, is showcasing your interests and on-ground activities performed in tandem with it during your school life,” she explains.
For example, a student with a keen interest in basketball, should have a profile, which states that he/she started a team outside of school, organise a charitable game with a rival team, invite someone significant to inaugurate the event and upload a video of the event on your blog or youttube.
A candidate with a stint at a summer school tends to stand out in the eye of the admission officer. He/ she with relevant summer school experience, explore their ‘real interest’ in what they want to study for the next four years at undergraduate school. “Living in another country at a young age will get them acquainted to life out of their comfort zone,” signs off Kukreja.
Key changes in SAT:
Relevant Words in Context – instead of obscure words, students will be tested on words that they will use throughout their lives
Command of Evidence – Passages for given text will be supported with info graphics to help student read pie charts and diagrams
Essay Analyzing a Source - Students will read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience
Focus on Math that Matters Most - will focus in depth on three essential areas of math: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math.
Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts - students will revise, analyse and solve Math problems which are in sync with real world problems.
Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies - Students will apply their reading, writing, language, and math skills to answer questions in science, history, and social studies.
Founding documents and great global conversation – passages from Bill of Rights and speeches of international leaders will give students an opportunity to reflect and engage with issues central to informed citizenship.