Spencer Schultz and Tyra Carter
Assistant Editor of Production and Staff Writer
It’s a widely dreaded test, yet almost all students are encouraged to take it in order to get into college and to be considered for scholarships. With over 1.7 million participants each year, the SAT is the largest college preparatory exam in the world, according to U.S. News. Yet, new statistics released by the College Board, who created and administers the SAT, reveal that there has been no increase in college-readiness of students who took the test.
In an attempt to prove the SAT is still relevant, the College Board has made changes to the content, scoring, and format of the test over the last few years. The redesigned SAT prioritizes content that reflects the reading and math that students have encountered in the classroom and will encounter in college and in future jobs. Jamesville-DeWitt High School juniors were among the first group of students to take the new test, in March 2016.
It was especially difficult for juniors to have to adjust to the new SAT this year, as they also had to deal with the changes to Common Core New York State tests, says junior Marissia Potamianos.
The transition to the new format was easier for some than others. For junior Lucas Binder, who has taken both the old and current SAT, says that though the changes were meant to be to his advantage, some of the adjustments proved to be a struggle. “The timing was just really difficult to deal with. There was less time to do more work in each section,” says Binder.
In the SAT’s old format, the test was fragmented into many short sections. In the new format, there are only three breaks, making each section longer. “I think that having less breaks is much better. You could really focus more on each section and get in the right mindset, rather than having breaks every 15 minutes,” says Potamianos.
The no-calculator math section proved to be the greatest challenge for J-DHS students. “It was really difficult to do so many questions without a calculator in that short of a time,” says junior Willa Shiomos. Though the Pre-Calculus course at J-DHS is predominately without a calculator, Shiomos says that the no-calculator section on the SAT was much harder than she is used to in Pre-Calculus. “We rely so heavily on calculators to do math in high school. It’s just really hard to make that switch,” says Potamianos.
And for the many juniors who aren’t enrolled in advanced math, the math section of the SAT poses another problem. “Almost all of the questions I missed on the SAT were based on concepts that I hadn’t yet learned in math,” says junior Julia Dettor. Juniors will have learned all the math on the SAT after the completion of Algebra 2 and Trigonometry, a junior level course. However, for juniors who want to get ahead of the curve, they must take the SAT before learning some of the math topics on it.
Students had mixed feelings about the last section of the test, the essay. Because the essay was optional and doesn’t factor into the overall score, not all students decided to complete that section. However, many students still chose to write the essay, as many more prestigious colleges recommend that an essay be available.
Junior Ally Street completed the essay section, but she didn’t do as great as she had hoped. “By the end of the test, I was really tired, so the essay was the hardest part for me to complete,” says Street.
Juniors enrolled in AP Language and Composition say they were well-prepared for the SAT’s writing section. “The SAT’s essay was the same exact format as what we do in English class, so I breezed by the essay,” says junior Giovanni Antonucci. AP Language and Composition teacher Courtney Romeiser thought the essay was more relevant to the students. “It was a rhetorical analysis, which is a skill that you use in college. The longer 50 minute writing period was also much more appropriate than the former 25 minute period,” says Ms. Romeiser.
Ms. Romeiser also leads an SAT prep course available to juniors at J-D. Former math teacher Katie Byrd teaches the math section of the prep course. Classes were scheduled twice a week from February through April. Currently, Romeiser says that there are a few test prep materials based on the new form of the SAT, but not nearly as much as the material based on the old test. “If there’s not enough test prep material now, I’m sure a lot more will be released within the next few years,” says Romeiser.
Even with the new obstacles on the updated exam, students agree some of the changes were beneficial. “The removal of the archaic vocabulary proved to beneficial,” says Ms. Romeiser. All students appreciated the removal of the penalty for wrong answers. In the old format of the test, there was a small subtraction of points for wrong answers, so students were encouraged to leave questions they did not know unanswered. “I think it’s really good that they’ve gotten rid of the penalty. It was just another thing for kids to worry about,” says Ms. Romeiser.
Though many students are struggling with the changes now, Ms. Romeiser is sure that the new SAT will benefit students in the future. “We’re a bit uncomfortable with all the changes right now. We just have to adjust,” says Romeiser.