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3 things parents should know about the redesigned SAT

On March 5, 2016, the SAT will officially transition from its current exam to its redesigned format. If your child is currently a high school freshman, sophomore or junior, chances are you and your student have heard of this development. As a parent, you likely have questions about it: How should my child prepare? What will she face on test day? And how will the SAT’s redesign affect her college admissions chances?

While these questions can only be fully answered with careful research, here are three things parents should know about the redesigned SAT.

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1. The test intends to better predict college success — and mirror the high school curriculum

The redesigned SAT features more than a half dozen major changes, including the elimination of the guessing penalty and a shortened length. Of these revisions, several aim to position the new SAT as an accurate predictor of current academic ability and future college success. Take, for instance, a renewed emphasis on analysis and close reading, which is present in both the evidence-based reading and writing portion and the math section. There is also an emphasis on vocabulary within practical contexts, rather than the highly challenging and unrelated vocabulary of tests past.

While the College Board states that much of an individual’s preparation will be high school itself, it is still important to note that students should study for the redesigned SAT.

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2. The optional essay may not be optional for your student

Beginning in March, the SAT will no longer require test takers to complete the essay section. For individuals who dread writing assignments, this is exciting news. But before your student throws out her lined paper and sample essay prompts, consider this: While the SAT may no longer require the essay portion, your child’s short list of colleges and universities may prefer to receive those scores, and they may not admit her without them.

Why? Writing is an important skill, regardless of college major. Before your student decides for or against the essay section, ensure that she touches base with each school’s admissions department (whether through email, telephone or in person) to inquire about its preferences.

3. The exam, and its scoring, are wholly new

This statement may seem painfully obvious. After all, almost every news outlet has reported on “the new SAT” in recent months. But it bears repeating: The March 5 SAT is wholly new. Your child has (hopefully) incorporated redesigned SAT practice questions into her prep, but resources for the 2016 SAT have not been as widely available as those for the previous version of the test.

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Perhaps your student has relied on outdated study materials or her prep has been less comprehensive than she would have liked. Perhaps the unfamiliarity of the exam overwhelms her come test day. Whatever the reason, your child may not score as well as she had hoped — and in the case of the redesigned SAT, it is well worth scheduling a second exam session now to account for the intricacies and oddities that will only make themselves known once the 2016 SAT officially debuts.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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