How Homeschoolers Must Prepare for the New SAT
The College Board launched new and redesigned exams in fall 2015 and spring 2016.
The redesigned PSAT/NMSQT and the new PSAT™ 8/9—for eighth- and ninth-graders–launched in October 2015. The new PSAT™ 10—for 10th-graders—launched in February 2016 and the redesigned SAT in March. These exams work together as the SAT Suite of Assessments.
I am “sort of” giddy with excitement about the 2016 SAT! Sort of. On one hand, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine such a homeschool friendly exam would be created. It is content driven and skill relevant. At the same time, it is content driven and skill relevant—content defined and skill driven by Common Core Objectives! Yes, the monster is at the gate!
Common core, you see, is content specific. Once upon a time the SAT was an IQ sort of test. It did not matter so much what the content was—as long as the test taker was a calm, careful thinker with a modicum of good sense. Thinking and problem solving—it was like eating lettuce to homeschoolers!
The SAT Is Very Much like the ACT Now
The SAT once dominated the industry–80% of colleges demanded the SAT. Now it is a 60/40 split and perhaps, Mr. Coleman, CEO of the CollegeBoard, is steering the ship toward a new shore.
Like the ACT, the SAT is based on content, not on skills (entirely). The new SAT has skated close to the ACT, Stanford Achievement Test, SAT II or the Iowa Basic. In all these exams–and now in the SAT–there is a limited corpus of information content on which these exams are based.
Yes, the SAT is quite frankly an achievement test–an ACT type test–but on steroids. Young people and parents: be forewarned. This test is tough. Really tough.
There is a new regime. The new SAT is indeed driven by Common Core specific pedagogy. Whether you like it or not, the majority, preferred college admission exam is powered by an educational theory that most of us abhor.
Nonetheless, the SAT is different and we must all adjust.
No longer do test takers merely analyze, synthesize, and evaluate—now they must know things like world view and literary analysis. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed). And so forth.
Again, though most homeschoolers will have nothing to fear. The truth is, once we look at the monster we realize he is really no big deal. The truth it, it would be a poor curriculum indeed that did not meet and surpass Common Core objectives! Still, just to be safe, students should take a language arts course that emphasizes critical thinking and literary analysis. And they should take a look at the test. Carefully.
Now, down to specifics.
Instead of arcane “SAT words” (depreciatory, membranous), the vocabulary definitions on the new exam are those of words commonly used in college courses, such as synthesis and empirical. Does that mean the vocabulary on the SAT is changed? Not really. Does that mean preparation should be different? Not really. Students should still read good books and learn Greek and Latin roots.
- The essay, required since 2005, became optional. Those who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze the ways its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument. Okay, but I bet you that the best schools will still require it. We homeschoolers hope so, because presently homeschoolers are the best writers in the country. It is fairly easy to improve a score on the writing portion of the coaching resistant.
- The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, was eliminated. I like that. Nice. I cannot prove it statistically, but most of my homeschool students are good guessers. I think it is related to their calm, Christ-centered approach to the exam.
- The overall scoring returned to the old 1,600-point scale, based on a top score of 800 in reading and 900 in math. The essay has a separate score.
- Math questions focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
- Every exam will include, in the reading and writing section, source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies, and on some questions, students will be asked to select the quotation from the text that supports the answer they have chosen. Love it!
- Every exam includes a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Well, it is about time! No one reads historical documents more than my students!
In conclusion, the SAT is changing.
Big time. But the God we serve—He never changes—and in the years ahead He will no doubt bless those who trust Him. Mark my word. We will look back on 2016 as a turning point for our community as God enervates and inspires our young people to do well on the SAT. To God be the glory!
Dr. James Stobaugh
After meeting at Harvard University, Jim and Karen Stobaugh were married 38 years ago and have 4 home educated adult children and 6 grandchildren. Jim’s education includes: B.A., cum laude, Vanderbilt U., M. A., Rutgers U. M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary, Charles E. Merrill Fellow, Harvard University, D. Min., Gordon Conwell Seminary. Dr. Stobaugh is a college admission coach and online AP instructor. His students have attended Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Pepperdine, Columbia, MIT, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Grove City, Hillsdale, Belmont, Wheaton, Liberty, and Patrick Henry. With over 25 books published, Dr. Stobaugh has written the well received SAT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student (2012), The ACT and College Preparation Course for the Christian Student (2012), as well as a critical thinking literary writing and history series. In 2014, Harvard Square Editions published his first critically acclaimed, Amazon bestselling novel, Growing Up White. Finally, Dr. Stobaugh is the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Boswell, PA. Jim and Karen reside on a farm called The Shepherd’s Glen in the Laurel Highland Mountains, Hollsopple, PA. You can read his blog and order his services at For Such a Time as This.