Initial Thoughts on the New SAT

June 30, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Featured, SAT Watch

Back in late March, I was quoted in the award-winning student newspaper, Redwood Bark, as part of a featured article by Chloe Wintersteen on the recently announced changes to the SAT.  Chloe does a very nice job of summarizing the changes to the test and some of the issues regarding the College Board’s collaboration with Khan Academy. I highly recommend this article to anybody interested in learning more.

Additionally, I have included below my extended comments to Chloe, which obviously didn’t all make the article.


Hi Chloe,

Thanks very much for contacting me. Happy to answer your questions. Please see below:

-Are you in favor of the changes or against them and why?

Some of the changes planned for the SAT are positive developments. Eliminating the guessing penalty, an anachronistic and counterproductive feature, is long overdue. Shortening the multiple-choice sections is also welcome, as the current long-form format emphasizes raw mental endurance over true knowledge and reasoning.

For many of the changes, however, it is simply too early to tell. Other than a broad outline of the content, the College Board really hasn’t been very specific about what actually is going to change. (I’m not sure they actually know all of it themselves at this point, as the President of the College Board has said that the development is still a work in progress.) Eliminating grammar multiple-choice questions, streamlining the math topics, emphasizing evidence in passage reading, dumbing down the vocabulary, and lengthening the essay all sound interesting in theory, but just how well these modifications play out in practice remains to be seen.

-Khan Academy will be offering free test preparation to all students. How will this effect Marin SAT Prep? Will you’re job still be relevant after the changes have been implemented? Why? (ed. Bless your heart, Chloe. 😉 )

I applaud Khan Academy for its efforts in continuing to provide free SAT materials online over the last five or so years as well as now in its official association with the College Board. It’s important that students have as much access to information about these tests as possible. Indeed, we at Marin SAT Prep have a long shown our commitment to that goal by making our training materials available online for anyone to use at It’s also the reason for many years I have published my ‘SAT Tutor’s Blog’ ( which provides a wealth of free training and advice.

With that said, I believe the statements by President of the College Board that its association with Khan Academy will somehow reduce or eliminate the need for test prep services is both hubristic and hyperbolic (two vocabulary words that you probably won’t see on the new SAT).

Currently, Khan Academy provides videos of the answers to questions in the Official SAT Study Guide, a practice we can assume will continue, yet just how much more in terms of an actual, comprehensive training program Khan Academy can provide remains a big, unanswered question. Even assuming its new test prep program provides a half-way decent training curriculum, the reality is that web videos simply cannot take the place of an actual person sitting down one-on-one with you to train you thoroughly over multiple weeks on every aspect of the test. Indeed, with all the SAT web videos already available, both at Khan Academy and many other places, why is the demand for private test prep tutoring greater than ever?

Moreover, as good as any website may be, it will have a hard time helping you with your test anxiety, planning your test prep calendar over multiple tests, tailoring your homework to your individual needs, encouraging you and building your confidence, and doing all the other holistic things that a live person can.

Remember too that because of its official association with the College Board, Khan Academy is significantly hampered in its ability to actually help you. Simply put, the people who write the test are not going to tell you how to beat it. Certainly, Khan Academy, in its new official role, can never advise you on aspects of test prep that do not actively promote the SAT, such as something as simple as whether the ACT may actually be a better test for you.

-How will the changes effect how you prepare students for the test?

Obviously, we are going to have to wait to see more details on the content of the new SAT, but in terms of our overall approach, which has been extremely successful for many years, we do not anticipate too many changes. In terms of curriculum, we may find ourselves spending a little less time on a multitude of math topics and spending more time on the essay as well as training students to spot evidence in the reading passages, but with all of the changes, we will still continue our student-centered approach that tailors our comprehensive training to the student’s specific needs.

-Some believe the changes are simplifying the SAT too much. Do you agree or disagree?

Too early to say for the most part. I do think it is a shame that the new SAT will eliminate arcane and esoteric vocabulary words, which I personally think are important in preserving the fullness and richness of the English language. Generally, the focus of the College Board in designing this new SAT appears to be on identifying students with aptitude towards graduate level professional studies, where business vocabulary, evidence spotting, and ratio-based math skills are quite useful, rather than on identifying students with creative and “out-of-the-box” reasoning skills who would perform well in undergraduate humanities courses, which the current SAT is actually quite good at doing.

-Any other comments?

We at Marin SAT Prep believe the changes to the SAT are a great opportunity for us. We are already planning our new training curriculum and materials, and our goal, as it always has been, is to be able to provide the absolute best test prep program available anywhere for students preparing for the SAT.


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3 Responses to “Initial Thoughts on the New SAT”
  1. Robert Ott says:

    While my skills as an SAT tutor developed, as a parallel endeavor I worked with my colleagues to publish a guidebook for the new SAT that is especially suited to Visual and Kinesthetic Learners. I am making free copies available to anyone willing to critique its content and effectiveness.

    It is our goal to perfect its content for special learning.
    Available in Kindle, paperback or Smartboard presentation format.
    “Higher SATs, Higher Calling”
    Available through Amazon at:
    For Smartboard at:

  2. Robert says:

    Here is a great resource SAT resource that I found useful on my last test.

  3. I have heard mixed reviews on the new SAT. My honest opinion is that it is not an effective test as well as that it appears to be a rough replication of the ACT. There are certain questions in the first section that I feel make it more difficult for students to do well, if they have minor reading comprehension issues. In addition, the no calculator section is not necessary. It seems as if the SAT, had to create a different math section in comparison to the ACT or it would be too obvious that Collegeboard has modeled its new exam from the ACT. I honestly think that it could be prepped for, but the old SAT was a better exam. Lastly, the only positive quality I found about the new SAT was that students will not be penalized for a wrong answer. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on this wonderful blog.

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