While no mention of specific changes to the test were made in Coleman’s letter, he did state that “an improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career,” The New York Times reported.
Now that the changes have been announced, what will test-preparation companies and tutoring services do to make sure their students are as well prepared as possible?
On one hand, Jonathan Chiu, the national content director for SAT programs at the Princeton Review, expressed with confidence that his company would be able to update its test-preparation materials to adequately prepare students for the latest version of the SAT.
On the other, he said he doesn’t expect the changes to be fully implemented until 2016 at the earliest, so he noted the added benefit of the long implementation schedule.
“Unless you’re a seventh or eighth grader right now who is worried about the SAT, there really isn’t a reason why current high schoolers should stay awake at night,” said Chiu.
When information about the specific changes is released, Chiu explained that test-preparation companies generally have a few months to update their resources and materials before the changes are actually implemented.
“Based on our experiences with all the various evolutions of the SAT, we should be able to translate the experiences with those new formats into what this new SAT format might be,” said Chiu. “And certainly when it comes down to it, it is still going to be a multiple-choice test, and we already have strategies and techniques that are well designed to help students perform to their best ability.”
When compared to larger test-prep names such as the Princeton Review or Kaplan, smaller companies generally have different strategies as they work to modify their teaching strategies in response to test changes.
“One advantage that we have is that we’re a much smaller organization than Kaplan, which has thousands of tutors that need to be trained on a new curriculum,” said Sheila Akbar, an SAT and admissions coordinator at Veritas Tutors.
“Instead we have a concentrated set of experts,” she said.
Using the process that Veritas Tutors used to accommodate changes that were made to the GRE in 2011 as an analogy, Akbar described how the education consultancy would go about modifying their curriculum in response to the new SAT.
“We have tutors that we tap for curriculum development in particular, but another one of our advantages is that we can design our plan for the changes and also implement them very quickly because the people who tutor are also the ones who teach the students,” she said.
Ultimately, one of the biggest questions may be whether the changes to the SAT will affect the number of students who elect to take the test over competitors such as the ACT.
Although Coleman did not explicitly make comparisons between the SAT and the ACT in his recent letter, his statement has caused some speculation that one reason behind the test redesign might be the fact that the ACT surpassed the SAT in number of test-takers for the first time in 2011, and has stayed consistent with that trend since.
There were 1,538 more students who took the ACT than the SAT in 2012, according to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
An increasing number of ACT test-takers, coupled with the recently announced changes to the SAT, may mean that test-prep services will also need to shift more attention to helping students decide which test to take in addition to modifying their curriculum to reflect the changes in the actual test.
“We have always tried to help students make an informed decision about which test is best for them,” said Akbar, “but I have noticed that there is less resistance these days to stepping away from the SAT as people realize that colleges accept all of the tests the same.”
Akbar pointed to the increasing number of test-optional schools as another reason why students and parents may be thinking more critically about which test to take.
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