As we wrote yesterday, the Next-Generation SAT is set for 2016, and there are several reasons that we at Veritas Prep are looking forward to the new exam. Here are two more things we’re excited about:
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
Both the GMAT and the ACT – the other tests in the Veritas Prep suite of prep courses – include Reading Comprehension questions that we call “Function” questions, those that ask for the function of a particular phrase, quote, or statistic in text. In these cases, the questions students need to ask themselves is “why does the author include this?,” and to do so effectively students need to understand the author’s purpose for writing the piece and that paragraph or section in particular. These types of questions – an emphasis of the redesigned SAT – don’t allow for (and often punish) the mere skimming to find keywords in the passage and the answer choices, and instead reward students for truly understanding what they’ve read.
We encourage students to stop periodically (using our STOP method, which asks students to consider Scope, Tone, Organization, and Purpose) to ask themselves “what is this about, and why was it written?” to check for understanding. Furthermore, the ability of students to use “The Why Test” to separate evidence from conclusions is instrumental in understanding the way that an author builds to a main point.
The type of critical thinking that these questions elicits is precisely what students need to both make quality decisions in the real world and improve the quality of their own writing. Forcing students to think critically in this piece of their college admissions process will go a long way toward helping them get the most out of their college experience.
It never fails as we train our SAT instructors before they begin teaching classes – as we discuss the vocabulary lesson, our 99th-percentile instructors will invariably mispronounce a few of the vocab words and we know to coach them to deliver them properly in class. Why is that such a struggle even for our perfect 2400 scorers? Much of the current SAT vocabulary consists of words you may read or just memorize, but never verbalize in daily speech even in rigorous classrooms. These words are often just obscure.
The SAT’s shift to more practical – but still challenging – vocabulary will benefit students, giving them greater breadth of word choice in their writing and public speaking, and allowing for better context for teachers as we familiarize students with these words. Practical vocabulary can be multipurpose in SAT prep, as well, as the words required for the vocab questions can also make for well-written essays and may well appear in reading passages. When standardized tests allow for crossover of skills from section to section, students are the winners.
The upcoming changes to the SAT are placing that exam more in line with other exams like the GMAT and ACT, and the overall trend in standardized testing is making for what we feel are more practical tests that encourage students to learn the “genre” of each test in a way that translates to real world success. The trends toward authentic assessments and critical thinking skills are progressions that we embrace as both students and educators, and while we’d love to say that we’re excited to get started on the new SAT, our experience with other exams in the same vein has actually had us on that path for some time already.
By Brian Galvin