As one of the most important exams a student will take during their academic career, the SAT and ACT are correctly viewed as tests worthy of detailed and thorough preparation. As a result, there has been a great deal of material created over the years for the purpose of test preparation, but recent changes to the SAT have led many to wonder whether the previously available material concerning this critical standardized test is still useful. Given the nature of the changes, it is absolutely true that updated materials are necessary as a part of a strategy to achieve the best possible outcome on the SAT, but there are far more questions regarding recent modifications to the SAT that are likewise deserving of consideration.
Scott Groza, the founder of the Groza Learning Center, recently addressed some of the more pressing concerns relating to the SAT’s newly implemented alterations, offering his professional insight regarding the following questions, among others:
• Will the changes to the SAT have an adverse influence on student performance?
• SAT or ACT? Which is the better option?
• What is the most effective test-preparation strategy?
• What materials are available for test preparation?
As an educator and a co-founder of a learning center that offers specific courses on SAT and ACT test preparation, Groza has a unique understanding of the recent changes to the SAT and the impact those changes may have on student performance.
Will the Changes to the SAT Influence Student Performance?
… the publishers of test preparation guides have had more than enough time to create new test-taking materials for students to utilize
The common refrain heard in response to the changes to the SAT is that students may not be able to properly prepare for the exam in the same way as before. Since the last change to the SAT was over 10 years ago, the belief is that there was a decade’s worth of data guiding preparation for previous versions of the exam. Without the same amount of data, many students are worried that they will not be able to benefit in the same way they would have in the past through the use of test preparation materials.
This is not as pressing an issue as it may seem on the surface. According to Groza, the College Board (the organization responsible for creating the SAT) has already released a 210-page document that goes into great detail regarding every aspect of the test along with four practice exams that reflect the recent changes made to the SAT. Since this official material has already been released and has been freely available for quite some time, the publishers of test preparation guides have had more than enough time to create new test-taking materials for students to utilize.
Groza noted that students will have access to the kind of high-quality materials that make it more than possible to properly prepare for the SAT. While emphasizing the importance of preparation as it relates to success on either exam, Groza also pointed out the fact that test scores on both the SAT and ACT are scaled according to the performance of all test-takers. Since the scores take overall performance into account, the fact that the test is new should have no undue influence on a student’s score when all students are taking the same test and have had access to the same materials.
SAT or ACT? Which Is the Better Option?
Even with access to perfectly adequate preparation materials for the new SAT, many students have wondered whether having access to more ACT preparation materials would benefit their performance. The fact that the tests are scaled — along with the fact that it is the quality of the preparation that matters most — eliminates this possibility, so students should not view one test as better than the other without evaluating how each test suits their personal skill set. Ultimately, the better option is the one that a student feels most comfortable with, so Groza recommends that students make a decision to take one or the other and to simply focus their energy on preparing for the test they have selected.
What Is the Most Effective Test-Preparation Strategy?
Each student is unique and therefore requires a unique approach to test preparation. There is no single approach that is most effective, particularly since some students will benefit from working with a group while others will experience a greater outcome through one-on-one tutoring sessions. There are even a number of students who are able to adequately prepare for the SAT or the ACT through self-guided study alone, but it remains important to point out that the most effective method for developing a strategy for test preparation includes an initial assessment for identifying individual strengths and weaknesses.
Recognizing the importance of the initial assessment, the Groza Learning Center utilizes an SAT practice test — which has been updated to reflect the most recent changes — to identify the areas a student should focus on in advance of taking the actual exam. Groza noted that this allows for the development of a program based on the most critical content areas and the order in which those content areas should be addressed. This, along with regular progress assessments, enables students to achieve an optimal score on the new SAT. Of course, the learning center uses this approach in preparing students for the ACT along with other important standardized tests students may encounter.
What Materials Are Available for Test Preparation?
As noted above, the same publishers that created the previously available SAT preparation materials have created updated materials that reflect the changes made by the College Board. These materials are based on the officially released documents made available through the College Board, meaning that the test materials should be every bit as effective as in previous years. There are certainly more preparation materials available for ACT preparation, but this does not speak to the quality of the SAT materials nor does it make a difference on a student’s ability to prepare for either test. As Groza has repeatedly pointed out, it is what the student does with the materials that matters most.