With the announced SAT changes, many college bound students, parents, and counselors are understandably more angst-ridden than usual about the test and how to effectively prep for it. This, unfortunately, means that some less-than-scrupulous test prep companies will seek to take advantage of that concern to turn a quick profit. These companies are rushing to market with “the first prep guide for the 2016 SAT” that is “guaranteed to boost your score.” Hopefully we’ll be able to dispel some of the myth, rumor, and panic surrounding the new tests with a few reminders. So here is your quick guide to preparing for the new SAT:
The Integrated Reasoning site from GMAC is getting a face lift and some new functionality. So of course we here at Bell Curves couldn’t wait to start playing around with it! (We love test prep with a passion. Don’t hate!) Read on to see all of the options on the new site.
The site looks really clean and intuitive. Right away you see it is split into three sections: Practice, Review, and Evaluate. However, there is a fourth piece to the site that you might easily miss. Do you see that little help sign up at the top right corner? CLICK IT! It has a bunch of information that could help you with integrated reasoning test prep. It is easy to miss the useful information hidden behind that innocuous little word “Help.”
Not so very long ago on an internet not so far away, I received an email asking me to review an SAT- related book. Normally, I don’t read the SAT books that currently flood the market; I’ve glanced at some of the books about the SAT (which I’m distinguishing from SAT preparation books) and mostly found them uninspiring. Many of them are too narrow, too poorly researched, too general, or too biased. But for some reason the email I got this day intrigued me and I foolishly said yes I’d read the book and post my commentary on it. So here goes.
GMAC sent us a heads up on the upcoming GMAT Official Guide and we had one of our favorite teachers, Andrew Patton in Atlanta, review it and give you this review so you can incorporate it into your prep more effectively.
At Bell Curves, we have long been fans of computer-based practice for the GMAT. The test is given on a computer, so it makes sense to practice on a computer, in fact, we designed our own online GMAT student center with that in mind. So when we heard The Official Guide for GMAT Review 2015 (the newest Official Guide edition due summer 2014) will now include an online practice site, we had to check it out!
Here is the list of the practice site content according to GMAC:
- A diagnostic test to help you evaluate your current level of readiness.
- Access to a question bank with 900 practice questions that are customizable based on question type and level of difficulty.
- Links to Integrated Reasoning questions (there is a IR practice site coming from GMAC soon).
- Exclusive video addressing concerns about taking the exam, balancing work and school, and preparing for the GMAT exam.
This is the second part of a series on the new version of the SAT. College Board will roll out more changes over the next 18 months as we await confirmation on the final form of the exam. It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam. We have some good stuff. Did you miss the first installment? Check it out here)
Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone.
With the old SAT, the Reading part of the test consisted of Reading Comprehension, passages on various subjects with questions about theme, vocabulary, and other verbal concepts, and Sentence Completion, which required students to fill in the blank or blanks of sentences with the correct vocabulary words or words. On the current SAT, the Writing section of the test consists of one essay written from a specific prompt, and Improving Sentences, which ask students to read sentences and paragraphs, find the error, or identify the ways in which the sentences can be improved. The new exam will shift things around, as there will be a Reading Section, Writing and Language, Math, and an optional essay.
Let’s take a look at what’s new on “The Reading Test.”
This is the first part of a series on the new SAT that will be doled out over the next 18 months as we await more information on the final form of the exam. It’s worth noting that these changes will affect test takers in 2016, but anyone planning to take the exam before that will be under the old system (search our blog for informative posts about that exam. We have some goods stuff.)
Today’s post was brought to you by one of our lead teachers, John Mahone. Without further ado, here’s some of what’s coming and what we’ve concluded.
Following up on last month’s event, during which the College Board, amongst horse-drawn carriages and blaring bugles, expanded on the details for the coming changes to the SAT, which will be rolled out in 2016. On April 16th, College Board quietly dropped 208 pages of unanswered questions and teasers on the internet and the world. The first quarter of the tome lays out The College Board’s reasoning for changing the test (somehow without mentioning the words “market share”) and strategy on how to do so (somehow without saying “we copied the ACT.”) But let’s get to the useful stuff.
For many b-school hopefuls, we’re in
the thick of crunch time. Application deadlines are already upon us (Round 1) or right around the corner (Round 2), and people are diligently putting the finishing touches on their essays (okay, some people) and taking that final GMAT to give them the score they need. With the GMAT still “in play” for many prospective applicants, the news that GMAC was coming out with TWO new full-length practice tests for GMATPrep an unqualified boon. Well, it started out as an unqualified boon. The reality has been a little more qualified.
Many of our students have purchased the new GMATPrep exam pack to get in one or two more full-length tests before game day. Unfortunately, some ran into technical issues that they shared with us, and which we though we should share with everyone else so that they’re aware of the possibilities.
Here are a couple of the problems we’ve heard about:
Difficulty installing the new Prep packs, despite following the directions to the letter. The difficulties were such that outreach to GMAC tech support were required.
A functionality issue that requires users to exit and reenter the test to access each question. Time is only lost (at least on the test) if you’re not aware what has to happen to get to the next question, but it’s surely an annoying waste of time overall.
Data Retrieval and Test Review
Naturally our team jumped at the opportunity to test drive the tests. You can read the full review here, which was largely positive. But when we tried to go back to review questions and data there wasn’t any of either to be found. Apparently if you don’t uninstall previous versions of GMATPrep you won’t be able to see the data or review the questions from the exam pack.
We contacted tech support and they told us about needing to uninstall older versions. You can read the full message from GMAC at the bottom of our review here.
So what does all this mean? Just that you should know that things
might not go smoothly. Many people experience no issues at all, but like a new rollout of any technology, there are bound to be some bugs. GMAC is surely collecting feedback and fixing them, but perhaps not in time for many people with test dates in the next few weeks. Consquently, just be aware that your testing experience may be less than ideal. If that should be the case, have a contingency plan, whether tests from other sources, or time to allow a fix or solution to be found. There’s no better testing software available than from the folks who make the test, so most people will want to get the tests, regardless of the possible tech issues.
That’s the scoop from us. Just trying to keep everyone aware of developments. Happy GMATing!
-The BC Team
After giving this some thought, engaging in discourse with colleagues and peers, I’ve decided that the theme College Board’s major marketing event last month should have been “Missing Opportunity” (click to read my post about that event). That event marked an important moment in which David Coleman and his College Board junta could have revolutionized the SAT by thoughtfully and comprehensively addressing the elements of the SAT that lead to what he called “the culture and practice of test preparation that now surrounds admission exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country.” Instead we got a marketing event, great talking points, and lipstick put on a pig. From all indications the new SAT will be nothing new, nothing different, and imperceptibly less biased against those who don’t have access to SAT prep. There are great articles floating around (I’ll link to a few I like at the bottom of this post) about why the SAT will fail to deliver on its promise of a level playing field, so instead of piling on what’s wrong with the new test I’m going to show you how the College Board (filled with psychometricians and PhDs who are ostensibly far smarter than me and thus begging the question of why did they not address these things themselves) missed out on simple ways of creating an SAT that was less susceptible to test preparation.
Today the College Board, with all due fanfare and a corresponding webcast watched by thousands, announced upcoming changes to the SAT, which will go into effect with the October 2015 PSAT and then the Spring 2016 SAT. During this hour long speech, not only did College Board president, David Coleman, announce changes to the SAT but he set the tone once again for the direction he is planning on taking the global multi-million dollar non-profit organization.
Since you can read in articles and newspapers across the internet the specifics of the announced changes to the SAT (a bunch of links are at the bottom), I thought instead to give you the benefit of my perspective on the impact of the changes by pointing out the winners and losers of the day (as I see it based on the information currently at hand which is admittedly incomplete).
First, let’s look at today’s winners: