Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New SAT = Same Ol' ACT?

The rubber is starting to meet the road for the newly designed PSAT and SAT, i.e. the "SAT Suite of Assessments." The new PSAT will be launched in the fall and the new SAT rolls out in March 2016.

The College Board does a wonderful job of communicating the changes to the tests in its Counselor Resource Guide to the Redesigned Assessments. This guide is available for free here.

As I review the changes to the new SAT Suite of Assessments, I can't help but think that the new tests are not that different from the ACT. Consider the following:
  • Gone is the 0.25 point deduction for wrong answers. In its place is the same raw score calculation used for the ACT: one point for a correct answer, no points for a wrong or omitted answer.
  • No more Sentence Completion questions, which were vocabulary-based questions not found on the ACT. 
  • Reading passages including scientific articles, graphs and charts like those found on the ACT. 
  • The new SAT essay score will not factor into the overall score, like the ACT. 
  • The SAT is providing free study resources which the ACT has done all along. 
These are just a few of the changes, but based on these, doesn't it seem that the SAT is trying to be more like the ACT

Additionally, the College Board states that the "ACT test measures skills across a large domain while the redesigned SAT will measure fewer things much more deeply." 

More specifically, the ACT provides one score based on the composite of four scores (Reading, English, Math, Science) while the new SAT will give one score based on the total of two scores (Reading/Writing and Math). The difference with the new SAT lies in the additional scores the new SAT will provide called cross-test scores, test scores and subscores. For example, a student will receive an overall score and, additionally, a subscore in specific areas, like Problem Solving and Data Analysis.  

As an educator, I see great value in this additional level of data from the new SAT. However, I am skeptical that colleges and universities will look beyond the overall score. If schools focus only on the total score, scoring the new test offers little difference from scoring the old test much less the ACT. 

I applaud the College Board's effort in making their tests more applicable and productive. Time will tell if the new SAT does a better job at predicting college performance than the old SAT. 

If you need help navigating the waters of the ACT, PSAT and SAT, contact CROSSWALK today. CROSSWALK continues to prepare students for success in academics, standardized test prep and life. Visit www.crosswalkeducation.com to learn more. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Art of Test Prep War: Strategy

I am certainly no expert in ancient Chinese literature and much less an expert on military strategy. 

Nevertheless, I was fortunate to meet John Hunter last year. Upon meeting him, I learned about his World Peace Game and his corresponding book World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements

Mr. Hunter  uses excerpts of the ancient Chinese military strategy book, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, to teach his students about competition, conflict and world peace

Inspired, I decided to read The Art of War

Reading the book through my lens as a test prep tutor, I found a number of military strategies suggested by Sun Tzu that could very well apply to SAT and ACT preparation

Okay, I admit that equating test prep with military operations is a bit of a stretch. 

Even so, I couldn't stop myself from thinking that much of what Sun Tzu offers in terms of military preparation can be analogous to test preparation

Take his famous line about strategy as an example:

"The individualist without strategy who takes opponents lightly will inevitably become the captive of others."

If we liken "opponents" to "tests" then Sun Tzu was not only a master military strategist, he may also inadvertently be the first test prep tutor to underscore the importance of strategy. 

My students all understand the importance of a game plan and a strategy for each question type. Past blog posts, like this one, suggest that a game plan is key to test success. 

Sun Tzu may have originally intended to prepare Chinese warriors in the art of war. However, he reminds us that any preparation requires a plan and that we should not underestimate the task at hand

If you don't want to be held captive by the SAT or ACT, prepare your strategy today. Contact CROSSWALK as we can help you through the preparation process, strategy and all.   

CROSSWALK is the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for SAT and ACT prep as well as tutoring for all academic subjects. Visit www.crosswalkeducation.com to learn more.