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Is Test Optional for You?

Is Test Optional for You?

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Will you be ready for the NEW SAT ESSAY?

Last Updated: Jul 27, 2015 3:34:00 PM

Essay Assignment - Score At The Top

Here are some basics to get you started!

Students who will take the new, optional SAT essay beginning in March of 2016 will encounter a 50-minute task that closely mirrors postsecondary writing. The College Board looks at it as a 50-minute college-level writing assignment.

What’s new about it?

Students will read a passage and analyze how its author builds a persuasive argument. The student’s analysis must quote or paraphrase directly from the passage. The passages are chosen by the College Board from material about the arts, sciences, politics and culture, and will be “challenging enough to assess college and career readiness but not so challenging that they keep students from responding under timed conditions.” (College Board)

“Optional”…or Not?

Students taking the SAT should write the essay, because many colleges are recommending or requiring students to do so. For instance, the entire University of California system requires an SAT essay submission. There are exceptions, though, even in California.

Liberal arts schools, such as Pomona, “recommend” but do not require students to submit the new SAT essay. How about the schools you think you’ll apply to” Find out the latest at this link.

New Essay, New Scoring

The new essay scores will no longer factor into a 200-800 SAT Writing score. (Actually, there won’t even be a separate Writing score on the 200-800 scale; rather, the Reading and Writing will be combined for a single Reading and Writing score on the 200-800 scale.) The new essay will be scored in three categories:

  • Reading
  • Analysis
  • Writing

The Reading score determines the student’s comprehension of the passage. The Analysis score determines the quality of the student’s evaluation of the passage. The Writing score determines a student’s grasp of standard English. For example, while a student may excel in grammar and syntax, he may not score well in analysis.

Each category receives a maximum score of 4 from each of two graders, for a total of 8 points in each category. College Board’s scoring rubric provides further insights, and can be viewed here:

In with the New, Out with the Old. How do they compare?

We’ve got you covered with a complete rundown of the old and new specs. Check them out here:

Why has the Essay been Changed?

College Board President David Coleman wants to change what is now an opinion piece, with tremendous room for impressionistic writing, into an objective, analytical piece.

Flights of fancy, made-up facts, completely personalized anecdotes, and other devices that even indirectly touch upon the writing prompt on today’s SAT will no longer be acceptable. According to College Board’s Coleman, “if writing is to be ready for the demands of career and college, it must be precise,…accurate, [and] draw upon evidence.”

So, the new essay requires students to analyze the techniques that the author uses to argue a point, using evidence directly from the passage. Evidence-based reading and writing is related to Common Core Standards.

The Bottom Line…for Now

Students are entering a new realm of SAT essay. Of course, students in the future – current sophomores and younger – won’t know what the former (actually, current) essay was like. But that’s OK. The educational goals are clear: have students complete an assessment that has the qualities of undergraduate coursework. But….

This essay has a level of complexity deeper than the current essay exercise.

Scoring will take place at a much finer level – across several dimensions. Perhaps that’s one of several reasons why the College Board says the first test in March 2106 will take weeks longer to score. Will scorers be up to it?

We can’t help but wonder how colleges will perceive each student’s writing and the new scoring system that purports to accurately evaluate it. Two things are for sure: time will tell, and our test-prep students will be well prepared for the demands of the new essay.

Topics: SAT Test Test Scores Test-Prep


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