3 big changes coming to the SAT and ACT

Copyright Renato Ganoza under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License via Flickr

Got your sights set on a US university education? Then you’re probably already familiar with the SAT or the ACT. These two standardised tests have bedevilled high school students in the US for decades. Millions of hours are poured into test prep each year along with, of course, millions of dollars.

But some big updates are in the works for these two examinations. And in just a few years students will be taking tests that their parents may have a hard time recognising. What changes could the heads of these organisations be planning? Check out the surprising list below:

1. The ACT is going digital

Pencil factories need to get ready to lose some business, because in a few years the ACT will introduce computer testing. The all-digital test will exist alongside the traditional paper answer sheets for a while. But the ACT company hopes to replace the paper test entirely before too long.

Actually, computerised tests have a few advantages. Obviously they can be checked much faster. Students don’t need to worry about bringing the right materials, or about their pencils breaking during the test. And giving the test on computers means questions can involve videos and animation. We haven’t heard anyone clamouring for such additions, but it could come in handy for science questions.

2. The SAT will get more practical

Many prospective freshmen have cursed the so-called “SAT vocabulary”. The test is infamous for requiring students to learn long lists of words that they may never use in their college classes. It’s also notable for having little connection to practical knowledge. The goal of the SAT is to test whether a student is capable of university-level academic work, but there is considerable doubt about its ability to do so.

Now the College Board, which creates the SAT, is trying to change the test’s image. The new test will put more of an emphasis on demonstrating academic skill. Students may be tested on math by analysing economic records, or on grammar by analysing texts. The essay is also changing, to require factual accuracy along with a well-constructed argument.

The new SAT will probably be introduced in late 2016, so students entering high school now should be seeing the new material by the time they graduate.

3. Younger students will start taking ACT tests

Don’t worry, elementary students aren’t going to be expected to take college entrance exams. But the ACT is responding to a nationwide desire to get more students into university. The organisation will partner with state education departments to find ways to guide more students into higher education. That includes students as young as eight years old.

Does this mean subjecting younger students to testing anxiety? Hopefully not. It’s all about helping parents make a plan for their children’s education. With a plan in place from the beginning, students won’t have to stress as much when time gets short. And maybe they can look forward to their future instead of dreading it.

About The Whiteboard

Are you passionate about educational issues? Do you want to have an intellectual exchange about topics that are relevant to students, parents and educators? Do you want to have your voice heard? The Whiteboard is a blog run by teachers who are passionate about our jobs and devoted to our students. We believe that outlets for students are scarcer than they should be. Therefore, The Whiteboard will be a safe place not just for teachers to post stimulating articles, polls, reviews or etc., but for students to make themselves heard, too. We actively encourage commenting and participation, and we will be happy to feature any students who are interested in guest writing for us. We update The Whiteboard every Wednesday, so stay tuned. If you’re interested in writing for the blog, have a topic suggestion, or want to ask a question or share an insight, leave a comment on one of our posts or drop us a line at publishing@ntk.edu.hk. We look forward to hearing from you!
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