Coping with College: The SAT
By Ellie Duley
The SAT, once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is used in Maine as a state assessment. This year the test will be mandatory for all juniors or third year students and offered on Wednesday morning, April 5.
The SAT was redesigned in 2016 and caused all sorts of stress, worry and confusion, but really, only for the high school class graduating in 2017. Students graduating from high school after 2017 will probably never know anything different. So, don’t worry if you have older friends who are bemoaning the test experience. The PSAT that current juniors took in both 10th and 11th grade was based on the new test so the content will be aligned with this test.
This new test is scored on a 1600-point scale and an optional essay is scored separately. The test takes three hours with an additional 50 minutes for the essay. The essay is not optional on April 5 because it is used as a Maine state assessment.
Students receive a total score of up to 1600 points that combines Evidence Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and a Math score. Both sections are scored from 200-800 total points. Your EBRW score is the combination of a reading test and a writing and language test. Bring a couple of freshly sharpened No. 2 pencils because this test is a pencil and paper test.
Students have 65 minutes to answer 52 reading questions and 35 minutes to answer 44 writing and language questions. Students have 25 minutes to answer 20 questions without use of a calculator and 55 minutes to answer 38 questions where they can use a calculator. All scientific and most graphing calculators are approved for use on the test. Students should plan to bring their own and make sure the batteries are fresh. The math that is on the test ranges from algebra, geometry, trigonometry, data analysis and more. More information, approved calculators and practice questions can be found at the CollegeBoard website. This is also where students can use their PSAT test results to link with Kahn Academy, for free and personalized test prep. These are just two ways to do test prep in what is becoming a very large industry in this country.
The 50-minute essay gives students a passage to read and analyze and then build a persuasive argument. Students will receive three scores ranging from 2-8 in each category of reading, analysis and writing.
Students will have the opportunity to send four free score reports to colleges for up to nine days after you take the test. Just remember that you won’t have an opportunity to see your scores first if you do this. It makes sense to send score reports to schools where you have a good chance of getting in and these schools require SAT scores for admission. I will sometimes hesitate in advising students to send scores to score optional schools based on PSAT results.
Don’t worry-there will be short breaks on test day and having healthy snacks is always a good idea. Students should get a plenty of sleep the night before, eat a good breakfast and leave their phones at home or at least out of the test room.
Lastly, since the redesign of the test in 2016 there is no longer a penalty for guessing on answers.
Ellie Duley is a certified school counselor and is currently working privately with students and their families all around the state of Maine, with all aspects of the college process. www.duleycollegecounselng.com