A Brand New SAT
| By Yvette J. Brown
really like taking tests, and [I] especially don't like the
| The new school year is almost in full swing,
but many students have spent part of their summer vacation studying
for the SAT.
"I've taken it twice," says Eric, 17. "My
best [score] was like a 1080."
Geoff, also 17, says, "I'm looking for a 1300."
The prospect of taking the SAT scares most college-bound
"My future is at stake!" declares Sasha.
"I don't really like taking tests, and [I] especially
don't like the verbal section," says Eric, 17.
Now students can add to their anxiety the College Board's
announcement that the SAT will undergo several new changes
that college educators hope will more accurately measure what
"They wanted to eliminate those things that seemed no
longer relevant and add some things that are more closely
related to [the student's] curriculum," says SAT expert
Analogies and quantitative comparisons will be dropped from
the new SAT format. And the test will now be comprised of
three sections: reading, math (including for Algebra II) and
writing (which includes an essay).
"I think with multiple choice, there is a little more
slack to it because you can narrow things down," Geoff
says. "But with a written essay, it's gonna be a little
The good news for students is that they have time to prepare
for the upcoming changes, which won't take effect until March
2005. In the meantime, experts recommend that students take
challenging courses, read, write and then read some more.
"The more they are challenged on a daily basis, the
more critical thinkers they're gonna be and the better they'll
perform on a test like this," Deen-Johnson says.
More Aligned to Curriculum
By Kim Ogletree
CWK Network, Inc.
Anxiety stemming from
standardized tests is not uncommon among today's teens. In
fact, the Reality Check 2002 poll conducted by Public Agenda
shows that 73% of surveyed students said they get nervous
before taking a test while 5% said they become too nervous
to even take the test. But these anxiety-ridden students may
soon have less to worry about as the College Board prepares
to change the SAT so that it more closely reflects what students
learn and how they learn it.
The major test changes, which will be implemented in March
2005, include the following:
- The verbal reasoning section will be renamed "critical
reading." Analogies will be dropped. In their place
will be short passages aimed at gauging reading ability.
Passages will come from academic disciplines, such as science,
history, literature and popular texts.
- The math section will gradually add problems from third-year
high school math, specifically, Algebra II. Quantitative
comparisons, in which test-takers use an algebraic equation
to compare the volumes of similar geometric objects, will
- A two-part writing test will be introduced: One part will
consist of multiple-choice questions, and the other will
be an essay question.
- Each section will be graded on a scale of 200 to 800 points,
just like the current SAT. But with three sections, the
highest possible score will be 2400.
- Students will have 3.5 hours to complete the new SAT tests,
compared with about three hours currently allotted.
The new changes represent the second time in a decade in
which the SAT has been revamped. In 1994, antonyms were eliminated,
reading was emphasized in the verbal section, nonmultiple-choice
questions appeared on the math test and calculators were permitted.
But critics fear that these changes, specifically the addition
of an essay question, will penalize students for whom English
is not a native language.
Since the new test will place the highest emphasis on reading,
mathematics and writing, College Board officials say that
the best way for students to prepare is by taking challenging
courses and reading and writing as much as possible. They
also recommend that students familiarize themselves with the
types of questions that will be on the new SAT by studying
sample questions that can be obtained for free.
What Parents Need to
The University of Illinois Extension says that most students
experience some level of anxiety during an exam, and this
anxiety is due to a variety of reasons:
- Poor time management
- Failure to organize information
- Poor study habits
- Negative test-taking experience
- Low self-confidence
- Negative attitude about school
According to the State University of New York at Buffalo,
children who frequently experiences test anxiety also worry
about the future and become extremely self-critical. Instead
of feeling challenged by the prospect of success, they become
afraid of failure. This makes them anxious about tests and
their own abilities. And ultimately, they become so worked
up that they feel incompetent about the subject matter or
The National PTA says that it does not help to tell your
child to relax, to think about something else or stop worrying
about standardized tests. But you can help your child reduce
test anxiety and prepare for tests like the SAT by encouraging
the following actions:
- Space studying over days or weeks. (Real learning occurs
through studying that takes place over a period of time.)
Understand the information and relate it to what is already
known. Review it more than once. By doing this, your child
should feel prepared at exam time.
- Don't "cram" the night before - cramming increases
anxiety, which interferes with clear thinking. Get a good
night's sleep. Rest, exercise and eating well are as important
to test taking as they are to other schoolwork.
- Read the directions carefully when the instructor hands
out the test. If you don't understand them, ask the teacher
- Look quickly at the entire examination to see what types
of questions are included (multiple choice, matching, true/
false, essay, etc.) and, if possible, the number of points
for each. This will help you pace yourself.
- If you don't know the answer to a question, skip it and
go on. Don't waste time worrying about it. Mark it so you
can identify it as unanswered. If you have time at the end
of the exam, return to the unanswered question(s).
As a parent, you can be a great help to your child if you
observe these do's and don'ts about tests and testing from
the U.S. Department of Education:
- Don't be too anxious about your
child's test scores. If you put too much emphasis
on test scores, this can upset your child.
- Do encourage your child.
Praise him or her for the things he or she does well. If
your child feels good about himself or herself, he or she
will do his or her best. Children who are afraid of failing
are more likely to become anxious when taking tests and
more likely to make mistakes.
- Don't judge your child on the basis
of a single test score. Test scores are not perfect
measures of what your child can do. Other factors might
influence a test score. For example, your child can be affected
by the way he or she is feeling, the setting in the classroom
and the attitude of the teacher. Remember, also, that one
test is simply one test.
- Meet with your child's teacher
as often as possible to discuss his or her progress.
Ask the teacher to suggest activities for you and your child
to do at home to help prepare for tests and improve your
child's understanding of schoolwork. Parents and teachers
should work together to benefit students.
- Make sure your child attends school
regularly. Remember, tests do reflect children's
overall achievement. The more effort and energy your child
puts into learning, the more likely he or she will do well
- Provide a quiet, comfortable place for
studying at home.
- Make sure that your child is well rested on school days
and especially the day of a test. Children who are tired
are less able to pay attention in class or to handle the
demands of a test.
- Give your child a well-rounded
diet. A healthy body leads to a healthy, active mind.
- Provide books and magazines for
your child to read at home. By reading new materials,
your child will learn new words that might appear on a test.
Ask your child's school about a suggested outside reading
list or get suggestions from the public library.
University of New York at Buffalo
of Illinois Extension