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Georgia high school students take PSAT in two weeks based on new SAT. Anybody prepping for it?

The new SAT makes its debut in March, but Georgia high school sophomores and juniors will glimpse the changes in two weeks when they take the PSAT on Oct. 14.

The October PSAT is aligned with the new SAT. Juniors who score at the top range on the PSAT are eligible for National Merit Scholarships.

Among the changes test takers are expected to see: No penalty for wrong answers, fewer multiple choice questions, a focus in the reading section on evaluating evidence and charts and graphs from which they will be asked to infer information.

And the College Board is making the SAT essay optional, as already is the case with the ACT.

Kaplan Test Prep released a survey of college admissions officers showing most colleges will not require the optional SAT essay.

Here is what Kaplan said:

With a revamped, more rigorous SAT debuting in March, Kaplan Test Prep’s 2015 survey of college admissions officers shows that one of the key changes on the new test — the conversion of the essay section from required to optional — means that a majority of colleges will now forgo the SAT essay as an application requirement.

Of the more than 300 top colleges and universities across the United States surveyed, only 13% will require applicants submit the new SAT’s optional essay section. Notably, however, schools that fall in that category include the nation’s top tier: Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Dartmouth College and Stanford University are among those that will require applicants to submit the SAT essay, as recently reported by Bloomberg.

According to Kaplan’s annual survey, 66% of schools will neither require nor recommend the new analytical, fact-based SAT essay for admissions; 19% will recommend but not require it; 13% will require it; and 2% will only require it for specific programs. (On the ACT, the other major college admissions test, the essay has been optional since it was introduced on that test in 2005.)

“Making the essay optional is one of the few changes that will help students on the new SAT, but make no mistake about it — the new test will not be easier. In fact, while the essay will become optional, it is also more challenging. The current SAT essay simply asks students to develop a persuasive essay about an issue, while the new SAT essay asks students to read a 700 word passage and then prepare a facts-based essay analyzing how the author builds her/his argument,” said Michael Boothroyd, executive director of college admissions programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “One thing to consider is that an optional but more challenging section provides an opportunity for students who are good writers and analysts to distinguish themselves. Schools appreciate applicants who challenge themselves, so earning a high score on an optional section can factor favorably on an application.”

In trying to persuade my two high school juniors to consider practice tests, I went to College Confidential , a site where students discuss their experiences in applying and getting into colleges.

I wanted to see what students said about the value of prepping for college admissions exams. Most posters felt practice helped them better their performance. Some reported boosting their scores by hundreds of points. One student took 65 practice tests to raise SAT scores that fell short of select colleges. The student ended up getting into Duke.

Most kids aren't going to do 65 practice tests. I doubt many students devote more than a night or two to SAT/ACT practice unless their parents have forked over hundreds of dollars for a professional prep course.

When people ask me about the value of practice tests, I point out the students profiled in the AJC for perfect ACT or SAT scores often took the exams 7 to 10 times. Given the average high school student spends 90 minutes a day sending and receiving texts and seven hours a day looking at some sort of screen, there might be room in their schedules for a few practice sessions.

If so, I encourage students to check out  the free SAT prep designed by the highly regarded Khan Academy for the College Board. Here's a link to the registration site.






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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.