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The SAT: What students and parents need to know to prepare

The SAT: What students and parents need to know to prepare

The SAT — widely considered to be one of the most important exams a student will take in his or her academic life — is changing drastically. When students sit down for the test in March, they’ll encounter a completely redesigned format that places significant emphasis on college and career readiness and skills such as reasoning, data analysis and critical thinking.

The SAT, which impacts high school students’ college admissions success, scholarship dollars and futures, will affect nearly 2 million students. In order to tackle the test with the right amount of knowledge and confidence, students (and their parents) must approach how they prepare for the exam in an entirely different way.

“The redesigned SAT will demand more from students than ever before,” says Dr. Raymond Huntington, co-founder of Huntington Learning Center, a tutoring and test prep company that places curricular knowledge at the center of test prep. “In the history of the SAT, preparation has never been more essential to success than it will be with the redesigned exam. Students must have deep foundational knowledge and demonstrate ability to reason, analyze and think critically in real-world contexts. Cramming for the test or employing test-taking tricks will not get students the knowledge or scores they need to enter and succeed in college.”

To prepare properly for the exam and achieve the desired result, here are tips for both parents and students:

1. Understand the changes: The exam has been overhauled with changes to both format and content. Test length, timing and score components for the redesigned SAT will be different than its predecessor. For example, students will no longer be penalized for answering a question incorrectly. With regard to content, students will be expected to master concepts that address college and career readiness, and key skills such as analysis and reasoning. For instance, all reading content will be passage-based and will place strong emphasis on students’ ability to understand vocabulary in context, focusing on more commonly used words, rather than simply demonstrating reading comprehension.

2. Know the dates: The first administration of the redesigned SAT is scheduled for March 2016. The class of 2017 and 2018 are most affected by the change, but seniors still has an opportunity to take the current SAT in January 2016, which is likely the safest bet. Regardless of the format, it is never too early to start preparing for these exams, as it is the best way to ensure success and avoid last-minute, ineffective cramming. Some students begin preparing a few months in advance; for others, it’s several months or longer.

3. Be aware that tips and tricks won’t work: The redesigned SAT requires a mastery of core academic concepts and an ability to apply these concepts in real-world scenarios. For example, in the Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing section, reading questions will feature charts and graphs similar to ones students will most likely encounter in science and social science majors as well as their careers. Math questions will also test more complex skills, and questions will build on one another.

4. Know your options: As the SAT will see significant changes, which could cause uncertainty on the part of students and parents, the ACT is another viable college-entrance exam option. The ACT, which focuses on core high school curriculum and what a student has learned, is accepted at all four-year U.S. colleges and has overtaken the SAT in popularity.

Huntington, whose team of educational experts analyzed the new test’s blueprint to uncover key changes and developed a rigorous curriculum to address them, is launching a new SAT prep program in July that will be available in its 260 centers across the nation.

For more information about the redesigned SAT, including key dates and considerations, visit and download a free copy of “Huntington’s Guide to the Understanding the Redesigned SAT.” (BPT)