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By Sabine Hutcheson, Education Consultant at TutorsPlus

As most international students are aware, those considering the US for their university degree will have to take an SAT or ACT exam.  Both of these exam boards offer a standardised set of skill-based exams on English language and Math skills. The nature of the questions aims to test students on their analytical, logical and reasoning skills in a short space of time.

While the ACT test will remain the same as it has been for several years, the SAT exam has been revamped for 2016, with the first session of the new format to take place in March.  Broadly speaking, according to College Board, the new test is changing to reflect the high school curriculum more closely and to stand as a better indicator of students’ readiness for university degrees.  The principle is still the same, the higher the score, the greater the choice of top universities.

European students may underestimate the importance of the SAT and ACT exams and lack of adequate preparation often results in scores that do not reflect a student’s true potential.  With the SAT and ACT exams acting as a key to merely be able to apply to top universities, it is crucial to understand the competition students are up against.  American students benefit from ongoing training for such exams throughout their schooling, while European students must actively seek the right kind of support.  Students who are contending with the demands of A Level or IB Diploma exams may see the predominantly multiple choice questions of the SAT and ACT as an easier exam for which a last minute quick fix seminar should suffice.  However, as the whole point of these exams is to maximise the end score, students would be wise to invest enough time and practice.

With the new format of the SAT exam taking over in 2016, students should be wary of online resources which might not be up to date.  Tutors must also be aware of the changes, so students should check that the people from whom they seek help are also on the same page.  As is the case anytime an exam changes, practice tests and appropriate resources are limited, so the help of specialists is even more relevant now than it ever was.  Prep courses are a great way to make sure the focus is on the new style of questions and the skills required for speedy answers.  Measuring against others in a group and not only against one’s own performance on practice tests also enhances the sense of competition that the SAT and ACT exams are about.

Key features of the new SAT from March 2016:

• No longer contains vocabulary-dependent Sentence Completion questions
• Will contain 5 reading passages with 10 - 11 questions each
• Passages will be generally similar to those seen on old SAT
• Some questions will focus on providing textual evidence for answers
• Some passages may contain data representations like tables and graphs

• Will present questions in the context of a larger passage, rather than the disconnected sentences in the current SAT
• Format is very similar to that of the ACT English test, and many of the same concepts are tested
• Some passages may contain data representations like tables and graphs Math
• Will contain two sections: one in which calculators are permitted and one in which they are not (the current SAT allows calculators on all Math sections)
• Content will overlap with old SAT in many ways, but focus will shift away from abstract reasoning questions and toward math seen at school
• Content heavily weighted towards algebra (62% of test) and statistics (28%), with Geometry and Trigonometry making up only 10% of the test

• Will now be separate from the rest of Reading & Writing
• Essay will be optional
• Prompt will be radically different from the old SAT essay
• Students will be given a passage and asked to discuss and analyze its contents

• Reading and Writing will be combined into one section called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
• Reading and Writing sections will incorporate data interpretation questions
• Scores will revert from the 600 - 2400 scale to the 400 - 1600 scale
• The essay will be its own section and will be optional
• Math will now have a section eliminating the use of calculators
• Math sectional will add some higher-level concepts
• There will be no penalty for guessing

In order to answer students’ questions and address any concerns, TutorsPlus is holding an Information Day on Saturday 29th August.  Specialist tutors will offer a taster session for the ACT prep course and will be available to talk about the new style SAT test.  Students will also have the opportunity to sit a new-style SAT mock exam ahead of the October to January sessions.

Author's Bio

sabine hutcheson bioSabine Hutcheson is a British-trained school teacher, with over a decade’s teaching experience in Switzerland, UK and neighbouring France. She has taught a variety of subjects to children from 5 to 18 years old, as well as to adults, and is now Education Consultant at TutorsPlus.

Visit www.tutorsplus.com to find out more about their education consultancy, tuition service, SAT college entrance preparation and intensive IGCSE & IB revision courses.