Monday, November 2, 2015

Homeschooling: What Every Parent Should Know about the NEW SAT & ACT

 Today, Lauren Gaggioli of Higher Scores Test Prep is my guest writer.  Lauren addresses changes in the ACT and SAT and advises on what you should do about them and even how they relate to Common Core.  This is a 2 part series, so be sure to sign up to receive blog posts or bookmark this site.

Here's Lauren:

Whenever change arises, loud and polarized opinions dominate the news cycle. Nowhere is this less constructive or more harmful than when change affects our education system.

Such upheaval clouds the facts and makes it nearly impossible to make an informed decision about the most important of decisions - how to move forward with a student’s education.

Homeschool families face this challenge far more frequently than their traditionally schooled peers, because a homeschool family makes decisions that affect day-to-day learning in addition to those regarding iconic educational experiences like the college admissions exams.

Let’s be honest - it’s crazy out there on both fronts right now. But my goal with this article is to share the facts about the new SAT and new ACT and explain how those facts may impact your homeschooled college-bound student.

Just The Facts Please!


In 2012, College Board - the maker of the SAT - named David Coleman its president. Coleman is widely regarded as the architect of Common Core.

College Board announced this change in leadership months after losing its foothold among testers in 2011. ACT became the more popular test that year.

In 2012, in addition to bringing on a new president, College Board announced that it would be revamping its 2400 SAT only 7 years after it replaced the original 1600 exam.

The new 1600 SAT is slated to be a completely overhauled exam and a more fair assessment of a student’s ability that, College Board claims, will not favor students whose families can afford preparation.

In an effort to ensure equity, College Board partnered with Khan Academy to provide free test prep to all students.

This test will make its maiden voyage in March 2016.


In Spring 2013 - after years of growth with little change to its exam - ACT, Inc. announced that it would engage in what it stated was “continual improvement without the need for radical change.”

Over the next 2 years, the company updated its exam slowly by integrating a new reading measure (dual passages), increasing the level of difficulty of its math section, changing the distribution of its science section, and - most recently - by crafting a new writing test that is more akin to an AP-level writing assignment than the opinion piece of the past.

There are also new subscores that correlate with Common Core measures, such as the STEM score and the English Language Arts score.
While ACT has made these continual improvements, it had not updated the book that it published that is available for purchase.

Why Are Those Facts Important?

As a test prep provider, I’ve always known that these tests can be a bit sneaky. That’s how I help my students. We set out together to vanquish our common enemy. It makes an otherwise boring exercise at least mildly entertaining.

Here’s the problem: when examining the facts, it becomes really apparent that both companies are sniping at one another and fighting for market share.

David Coleman gave College Board bonus points among the proponents of Common Core. Claiming that the changes to its test were merely “continual improvement” made ACT attractive to those who dislike change - even though the changes have, in reality, been pretty dramatic.

While each company is trying to best the other one by aggressively promoting its exam as the pinnacle of college admissions test greatness, students and families are left with sub-par prep materials, unclear information, and lots of stress from not knowing what to do.

It’s one thing when the test has some challenging elements. It’s another when the marketing is so slick that families can’t make a decision.

Next week, Lauren will address: the Three Elephants in the Room, What test Should you take, and When should you take the test?

While you are waiting, you can see what I had to say about the new SAT when it was first announced: What to do About the New SAT(short version)  (long version)

About Laren Gaggioli:
Lauren is the founder of Higher Scores Test Prep and also the host of The College Checklist podcast. On the podcast, she interviews college counselors and other college admissions professionals, bringing timely, relevant information to today’s college bound families. You can subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher Radio.

Lauren continues to tutor students in Southern California through her private tutoring company Gold Star Test Prep. She lives in Carlsbad, CA with her husband Mike and their two energetic “babies” – Giada the Chihuahua and Captain Malcolm Reynolds their mischievous cat. When she’s not tutoring, she can be found reading, puttering in her garden, or whipping up a new recipe in her teeny-tiny kitchen.

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