Some Thoughts on the New SAT

This month the College Board released their annual report on student performance. The class of 2017 is the largest cohort in SAT history, with over 1.8 million students taking the new or old version of the SAT. In terms of scores, it is difficult to create comparisons between the class of 2017 and previous classes. The College Board redesigned the test last year, making comparisons invalid. This year, scores are reported on a 1600 scale with two 800-point sections whereas the previous version was out of 2400 points with three 800-point sections. The redesigned SAT is more similar in scoring to traditional versions of the test that many of us took when we were high school students. The mean total score for students in the class of 2017 who took the SAT was 1060. It is significant to note that only 46% of all test takers met the benchmark in both Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EWR) and Math. Randolph students in the class of 2017 significantly outperformed both the mean scores and the benchmark scores. SAT scores for 2017 have not yet been released by the New Jersey Department of Education so I won’t publish numbers here yet for our class of 2017 students.

Detailed performance report on the new SAT. Source: College Board
Benchmark Values on the New SAT. Source: College Board

In Randolph, more students still take the SAT as opposed to the ACT. However, nationwide the ACT has more test takers than the SAT, with about 300,000 more students sitting for the ACT. Testing experts believe next year, both tests will have similar numbers of test takers as the SAT has won a considerable number of state contracts so more students will be taking the exam. Both tests are still used by the majority of colleges in the United States as part of the admission process. Many students wind up sitting for both exams. This thoughtful comparison chart by the Princeton Review can help parents and students if they are trying to choose between the two. The general differences are that the ACT has a science section that the SAT does not and the SAT has a no calculator section that the ACT does not. For the most part, both test the same type of content.

In my opinion, the SAT has made considerable progress in terms of free support available to students. The most important resource students in 11th and 12th grade can use now is “Official SAT Practice” by the Khan Academy.

This FREE resource imports PSAT results and creates personalized learning paths based on student need. It only takes a minute or two to set up, but can make a profound impact on

This graphic shows the average number of points gained from PSAT/NMSQT to SAT associated with the hours spent practicing on Khan Academy. Source: College Board

SAT performance. Earlier this year, the College Board released data showing that students who completed at least 20 hours of personalized official SAT practice saw average score gains of 115 points from the PSAT to the SAT. In fact, more than 16,000 students saw gains of over 200 points or more. “The SAT is a strong measure of college readiness.  It is heartening to see this positive association between personalized practice on Khan Academy and growth in college readiness,” said Khan Academy founder and CEO Sal Khan. “This was only possible because of the hard work of many people, especially incredible teachers, counselors and school districts who have leveraged these practice tools for their students.” If you are the parent of a student starting the college process, Official SAT Practice by the Khan Academy is a great place for your child to start practicing before sitting for the SAT. The fact that this resource is free can be a game changer for many students. I’d imagine the transparency of the College Board and their efforts to help students perform better on the exam might make the SAT even more popular than it is. For now, please consider getting started on this amazing and free resource.

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