Category: Changes

A Seattle Times article debuted this week that highlights the changes and challenges presented by the new SAT.

The article focuses on how the new SAT test requires students to rely more heavily than ever on language abilities to succeed. Though the reading portion is roughly the same length as the previous SAT–3,250 words on the new, 3,300 on the old–and about 30 percent of the math problems are still word problems, analysts say that the way words are used on the new test can be confusing for many students.

For example, the article highlights a question on the new SAT that begins, “An anthropologist studies a woman’s femur that was uncovered in Madagascar.” It’s highly probable that many students won’t know the meaning of the words anthropologist, femur, or Madagascar, and yet those words actually have nothing to do with the question, which asks students to find the length of the bone using an algebraic equation.

If you’re one of the many students who is nervous about the new SAT, Sandweiss Test Prep can help! We help students determine whether they should take the SAT or if they’d be better off taking the ACT.  We provide diagnostic testing that enables us to recommend one test or the other, as well as a course or tutoring program for either the SAT or ACT.

Due to the SAT changing this year, however, there are several obstacles in terms of analyzing and comparing the results against the ACT for current juniors.  The new SAT isn’t being administered for the first time until March and those results won’t be available until mid-late May.  Until the new SAT has been administered a few times to weed out the outliers in the data pool, and to provide concrete scoring data, it’s not feasible to make a direct comparison between the SAT and the ACT.  We can of course make an educated guess regarding which test may be better for you, but the only data that has even been made available regarding the new SAT are the PSAT percentiles from earlier this year, and that test is scored on a slightly different scale than the new SAT.  Also, there are many reports indicating that the PSAT percentile scores have been inflated and are unreliable.  Due to these factors, we are generally recommending that current juniors stick with the ACT.  The ACT is accepted everywhere the SAT is accepted and without preference.

Call us today to learn more about how you can help your student excel in college standardized testing!

Students in the class of 2017 have more options than they can easily navigate. Should they take the old SAT, the new SAT, or the ACT?

There are arguments to be made for each test, and it mostly boils down to the strengths and needs of the individual. Here are a few of the key reasons you might choose each:

Why take the Old/Current SAT?  The SAT has been the standard college exam for many decades, and there is a wealth of preparation materials and strategies out there for how to take and ace this test. If you’re not easily confused by burdened sentence structure and obscure vocabulary, the last administration of this exam – January 23rd – might work in your favor.

Why wait to take the New SAT?  This test will surely have kinks to work out, and there is not a lot of practice material available for students.  There are also many new types of questions that need to be validated over several administrations of the exam.  The norms for scoring have yet to be developed and colleges may find it challenging to interpret the results with the limited sample of students who have taken the exam by next Spring.  In the long run, we are hopeful that this will be a better SAT than the current exam, but we are recommending the ACT for most of the Juniors who work with us this year.

Why take the ACT this year? The ACT has generally been considered to be a very reliable indicator of college readiness and a more straightforward test than the SAT.  It has been accepted equally with the SAT by colleges for many years now.  With the changing SAT, it will be more readily understood by admissions personnel who will already know how it’s scoring relates to their admissions goals and enrollment management needs.

As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, we don’t recommend that students take the new SAT on the first three or so test dates so as to ensure that there is adequate practice material available and they aren’t just the “guinea pigs” of the College Board test designers. For the first few rounds, this new SAT should still be considered a work in progress, but we do believe the result is going to be a much better test, and one that will offer a better potential alternative to the ACT than the current SAT has been.

The College Board recently announced significant revisions to the SAT exam. In our last post, we told you about upcoming changes to the writing section. Today we will outline the changes to the Critical Reading portion of the exam. The current version of the SAT contains three scored Critical Reading sections and three scored Writing sections (an essay and two multiple choice sections). On the new SAT, both reading and writing will be combined to produce one score on what will be called the “Verbal” sections of the exam.

The new reading questions will be focused on evidence-based responses to expose students’ factual reasoning and contextual understanding. This means that as they answer questions on the reading portion of the exam, students will be asked to use evidence to support their answer choices. The goal is to measure a student’s ability to analyze the components of an author’s argument and identify the relationship between an author’s claims and the supporting information used to justify those claims.

Additionally, test-takers may need to reference and cite certain parts of a passage in order to demonstrate the ability to recognize ways in which authors support arguments.  The new reading portion of the ‘Verbal’ section is designed to allow test-takers to analyze and reference sources in a variety of disciplines, including literature, nonfiction, natural science, humanities, and social science.

The other major change to the Critical Reading component of the current SAT involves the dreaded Sentence Completion questions, which test vocabulary that students have not and will not likely ever use in their college studies, profession, or day-to-day lives. Students preparing for the current test will often memorize vocabulary for no other reason than to score higher on the SAT. Instead, on the new exam, the vocabulary-based questions will test words people actually use on a regular basis and/or words that most students will encounter in their college curriculum. 

Sandweiss Test Prep recently released a video explaining this and some of the other changes to the SAT. The first students to be affected by the new SAT are going to be juniors in the fall of 2015 who will take the exam in the spring of 2016.


Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in exam preparation classes and tutoring, college admissions counseling, and academic tutoring for students of all ages. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

Featured photo credit Flickr user beggs.

This past March, the College Board announced plans to release a new SAT in the spring of 2016.  Details about the impending changes are being released in stages; however one of the most notable changes since the initial announcement has been to the writing portion of the exam.

While writing and reading are currently separate components of the SAT, they will be combined in a ‘verbal’ section on the new exam. At present, the essay portion of the writing section counts for 30% of the overall writing score. On the revised SAT, the essay score will be reported separately, using a 2-12 scale.

The essay on the new SAT will be labeled as “optional,” meaning that students are not required to complete the essay portion of the exam. This is similar to the current version of the ACT exam, with the essay also considered optional. However, this is a bit misleading, since nearly all of the more selective colleges in the country require ACT test takers to submit an essay score. We expect that many colleges will regard the “optional” essay on the SAT in a similar fashion.

On the current version of the SAT, students are asked to offer an argument in response to a statement. The standard instructions are to “discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree” with the prompt. Essay graders have been instructed not to take into account whether the evidence students provide to support their arguments is factually accurate. It has also been demonstrated that longer essays are correlated with higher scores. Accordingly, many students have adopted a “kitchen sink” approach to the essay, tossing in as many details as they can think of, regardless of the appropriateness of this evidence.

The new SAT essay is intended to end this practice and to focus more on a student’s reasoning and analytical skills. Students will be provided with an argument that they will need to analyze with respect to the quality of the reasoning displayed. For example, students will be asked to identify an argument’s underlying assumptions or to discuss what kind of evidence might strengthen or weaken the logic of the argument.

Student responses on the new essay portion of the exam will be evaluated for both clarity of communication and demonstration of critical thinking skills. In recognition of the increased complexity of the new essay task, students will be given 50 minutes to complete this portion of the SAT, which is double the amount of time allotted on the current exam.

For more information about changes to the SAT, Sandweiss Test Prep released a video explaining the most notable differences.


Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in exam preparation classes and tutoring, college admissions counseling, and academic tutoring for students of all ages. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

Featured photo from

This past spring, the College Board announced major changes to the SAT. The changes will be implemented in the spring of 2016, so those who will be entering their junior year of high school in the fall of 2015 will be the first to have the opportunity to take the new SAT.

Test prep businesses and academic organizations of all types have been buzzing about the changes and what they mean for students and colleges. The exam’s math section is one area where the new SAT will be a little bit different.

As before, the math section will measure a student’s familiarity with concepts typically covered in high school math courses up through sophomore or junior year (depending on when a student takes Algebra 2). Two significant changes are that the new SAT will place more emphasis on algebra (and correspondingly less emphasis on geometry), and students will only be able to use a calculator on one of the math sections.

Students should now focus on studying algebra with extra attention, knowing that it will be more heavily featured on the exam. The no-calculator portion of the math section will be worth one-third of the math score for the exam. The purpose of this change is to test a student’s ability to recognize how certain math problems can be solved more efficiently by utilizing a logic-based approach, rather than relying primarily on a calculator to perform routine computation.

The College Board has decided based on research that problem solving and data analysis  are the most important aspects of mathematics  to prepare students for higher education and for the workplace of the future, so we can expect the new SAT to place more emphasis on quantitative reasoning skills and less emphasis on memorization and rote learning.

If you are interested in more of the changes coming for the SAT, check out this video from Sandweiss Test Prep.

Sandweiss Test Prep specializes in test preparation, academic tutoring, and admissions consulting. Visit the Sandweiss Test Prep website for more information about our services.

Featured photo from Wikipedia Commons

Graduation season has passed, and it’s time to think about college applications! Recent college admissions trends offer important information to students applying in the next few months…

The Importance of a High School Record.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, your child’s high school record is the number-one most important factor in college admissions. Good grades, rigorous course loads, and challenging courses have a stronger influence on admissions decisions than class rank or even standardized test scores. Essentially, colleges want to see that you’ve taken the most challenging classes that your school has to offer, and that you received strong grades in these classes.

College Applications Increase.

Students are sending out more college applications than they used to, and so colleges and universities around the U.S. are getting more and more applications every year. In 2011, 29 percent of the pool of college applicants sent seven or more applications (up from 9 percent in 1990), and the average number of applications per student has increased since then. This increase in the average number of applications per student has resulted in a negative cycle: more applications lead to lower admission rates, which leads to more applications as students try to hedge their bets, and so on.

Acceptance Rates are Dropping.

The lowest recorded admission rate (5.07%, according to research from Ivy Wise) happened this year. The average overall admission rate is probably closer to 50% or more, and several Ivy League colleges are accepting a higher rate of applications for the class of 2018 than they did for last year’s class; however the difference is not great. Many Ivy League schools received a higher number of early decision applications. Since most schools accept a significantly higher percentage of early applicants over regular submission applicants, early decision is to your student’s advantage. Also, now that colleges are receiving so many (and not accepting) applications, it’s critical that students find a way to break through the noise.

Demonstrated Interest is Key.

Most selective schools are becoming even more selective in their admissions decisions. Colleges and universities nationwide are placing stronger emphasis on students’ demonstrated interest in attending their school. They track student visits and interviews, check to see if the student has contacted faculty or alumni, and analyze their supplemental essays to gauge how well the student knows the school (and therefore, the likelihood of enrolling). College admissions officers want to see that your student has done his or her homework on the school. They will almost always look at your child’s social media profiles, too, so remind your student to be careful!

Contact us to learn about test preparation, tutoring, and admissions counseling services to help your student through the college application process.

Featured photo from here, labeled for reuse.

In a move opposite of trends on most other state school campuses, this year Washington State University will have 1,100 more in-state freshmen at its Pullman campus than last year, with an emphasis on bringing in Washington students.

Because of budget cuts, universities like UW have cut down on the number of in-state freshmen and increased tuition, but WSU is bucking the trend by actively recruiting within Washington high schools. There will be consequences, though–for the first time, some double dorm rooms will become triples, for example. The school is also hiring more tenure-track and part-time professors to accommodate the increased student population

Next June, an integrated reasoning section will be introduced to the GMAT. The new section will replace one of the essays, and will be heavy on data interpretation. The test will still take three and a half hours, and the verbal and quantitative sections will remain the same.

Head over to the New York Times to try your hand at the four new question types: multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, and sorting tables.

(And don’t forget that several b-schools are starting to accept the GRE!)