Many students and parents have, no doubt, heard about the “new” SAT that has been in the works and have wondered how that may impact their testing schedule. The only class the change will impact is the Class of 2016 (current juniors). The redesigned SAT will come online in March 2016. Prior to March, the rSAT will be previewed by the redesigned PSAT in October 2015. The current 10th and 11th grades will take the rPSAT.
The rPSAT and the subsequent rSAT will contain four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and two Math sections (one with calculator and one without). The Reading section will consist of passages from American and World Literature, History/Social Studies, and Science and will focus on words in context, command of evidence, and critical analysis. (Sounds like a syllabus from any humanities or science class at Randolph!)
The Writing and Language subtest will focus on correct grammar and syntax in usage, vocabulary in context, emphasis on command of evidence, and inclusion of informational graphics. The redesigned Math sections have four content areas: algebra, problem solving and data analysis, advanced math, and additional topics such as geometry. The subtest covers all mathematical practices with an emphasis on problem-solving modeling and making use of appropriate algebraic tools.
Lastly, the essay portion of the rSAT has been made optional (as it currently is with the ACT). However most competitive colleges and universities will still require (or highly recommend) the essay for admission review. Finally, there will be no penalty for wrong answers in the scoring of either the rPSAT or the rSAT.
Our entire Upper School faculty has been made aware of these changes to the PSAT and SAT and will certainly incorporate the analysis and thinking needed to be successful. Will our students be prepared for the changes? They should be. As Ryan Liese, Head of Upper School, notes, "For many years now, the Upper School has made a concerted effort to emphasize critical thinking skills within our curriculum. Evidence of this runs throughout each discipline and takes a variety of forms, from discussions and debates to laboratory experiences. We encourage our students to ask thoughtful questions about the material that they encounter rather than passively accept the information being presented."
Randolph will administer the rPSAT to all 10th and 11th graders on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. (Parents of our 10th and 11th graders do not need to do anything to register their children for this test. The School handles this.)
Many students signed up for Appleton Learning's Test Prep Boot Camp this summer to familiarize themselves with the tests. All are encouraged to take advantage of free online test prep through Khan Academy. The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide useful practice for all parts of redesigned tests: khanacademy.ordg/test-prep/new-sat
To the Class of 2016: For current seniors, there is no effect of these test changes on their testing schedule. They should continue testing this fall with their test of choice (ACT or SAT or both) in consultation with their college advisor.
To the Class of 2017: The current juniors are most affected by this change. The rPSAT in October 2015 is also the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholars program so interested students should preview and practice before then with Khan Academy. Juniors should also take the ACT in winter or early spring and then plan to take the rSAT in March 2016.
To the Class of 2018: The current sophomores are not really affected by the change in test design. They will take the rPSAT in October and will receive their test results in January and their score reports will include useful tips for improvement and practice.
To the Class of 2019: The current freshmen are not affected at all by these changes. In October they will take a retired ACT (a full ACT with English, Math, Reading, and Science subtests) and a score report will provide information for review and practice.
As always, the results of the rPSAT and practice ACT are never reported to colleges and are always used for evaluation of strengths and weaknesses and for practice. I look forward to meeting with junior parents on September 23 at 12 NOON in the gym foyer to discuss testing information and answer questions.
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