Attributed to: Butz.2013

Attributed to: Butz.2013

For young adults navigating the college application process, the world of standardized testing can be confusing and overwhelming. While many schools are now test optional, students are still taking SATs and ACTs in droves as part of their package when they apply to four year colleges.

And in March 2016, the SAT will release yet another version of its test. So, what’s new about the test and why should young adult librarians care?

Many students who don’t have access to tutoring services, prep books, and practice classes may rely on their public or school library to help them not only navigate the testing process, but to also provide resources for them to practice the tests. But with the College Board changing the exams, how can libraries keep up with procuring practice test materials in a cost effective manner?

Enter sites like Khan Academy, which offer free, web-based tutorials and practice exams and features a module for the latest iteration of the SAT, which is endorsed by The College Board on their website. Khan Academy has countless other learning modules available in countless subjects; their mission is to offer “a free, world class education to anyone, anywhere.”

As a librarian at an independent, laptop school in Boston, I use Khan Academy often when students come requesting books or tutorials on how to learn to code, for instance. Our teachers here often use their videos as supplemental materials to their in class lessons. All videos and modules are accessible via a web browser. Bookmark this site and promote it at your library and on the computers in your youth departments.

You can see Khan Academy’s tutorial for the new SAT here. They also have an entire section devoted to college counseling virtually. For youth that don’t have access to adults who can help them through this daunting process, this is an excellent–and free–resource.

The College Board also offers a host of free practice questions; students can sign up for “Question a Day” or fill out a short survey about their experience with SATs and the College Board will design them a personal study plan.

For librarians, it’s important to remember that you can help students navigate this process. As community organizations, we can arm students with the information they need, for instance, about fee waivers for the exam, as well as other free resources available to teenagers and their families.

Not only can librarians understand the process and navigate what free materials are available, we can also develop reading lists for students. A professional tutor, interviewed by the NY Times, claims one way to prepare is to read more nonfiction materials. Librarians should develop reading lists and access to titles that could help students prepare for navigating parts of the exam that will have them read long passages from subjects including the sciences, history, and the humanities.

Here are a few basic things you should know about the new exam:

  • it debuts in March 2016
  • the College Board claims questions will be more relevant to what students are learning today and draws largely from Common Core Standards for reading and writing most states have applied as benchmarks
  • it will be more similar to the ACT
  • there will be two sections: math and evidence-based reading and writing
  • the math section will rely heavily on reading; there will be an increased number of word problems
  • it will be scored on a scale of 200 to 800
  • there will no longer be penalties for guessing
  • answer options are reduced from 5 questions to 4 questions
  • the required essay portion will now be optional

For more information, explore The New York Times’ comprehensive guide Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT.

Jenna Wolf  is the Director of Research and Technology, Beaver Country Day School (Chestnut Hill, MA).

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