As I have been saying for months now, if my six-year-old twins were going to be 11th graders this year, I would have them avoid taking the New SAT. I believe all 11th graders should prepare for the January test (or an earlier SAT before the switch), and should also focus on the ACT this year. There is very little upside to preparing for what is essentially a third college admissions test. So the question becomes: “How should an 11th grader approach the New PSAT that will be given in schools on Wednesday, October 14th ?”

Kid-thumbThe answer is that they should go into the New PSAT with their “eyes wide open”, understanding that this is a format they will hopefully not have to experience again. They should use the New PSAT as a chance to practice, and should make a real effort to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

But––and here is my concern––they cannot allow themselves to get demoralized if the test seems very difficult. This needs to be communicated very explicitly to students: “You are taking this test as a brain teaser, as extra credit, as a challenge, but if you bust your butt and prepare for the January SAT or any ACT and score your best, you will not have to be one of the guinea pigs for this new exam.”

A good analogy here would be a softball or baseball player who swings a weighted bat before heading to the plate. As long as the player realizes she is swinging the weighted bat to warm up her muscles, and that there is no need to swing the weighted bat at the plate when it counts, then swinging that weighted bat can be a very helpful exercise.

My colleague, Evan Wessler, analyzed the scoring scales the College Board just released for the four New SAT full-length practice tests. A highlight: to earn a 500 on the math portion of the Current SAT, a student needs to get 57% of the questions correct. To earn a 500 on the math portion of the New SAT, a student needs to get just 41% of the questions correct.

It is very difficult for a student who is used to considering a test grade of 90% or above a “success” to have a positive experience taking a test on which getting 40% of the questions correct means they are scoring right around the national average. We need to repeatedly communicate to students that this New SAT is “not your Grandpa’s SAT.” Heck, it’s not even your older sibling’s SAT. It’s a more difficult test with a more generous curve, and should not be viewed as similar to a typical high school exam, on which a 90% or higher is the standard of high achievement.

- Tom Ehlers

President and Founder of Method Test Prep

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