How SAT Tutors Can Teach the New 2016 Test

Just about every tutor out there has the redesigned SAT on her mind.

Those with 10 or 15 years of experience may feel like the clock has been set back to zero. Although there will be significant changes, it’s important for the tutoring community to take a deep breath and focus on preparation — it's still the good old SAT, even if it’s new.

Here are six tips to get you ready to teach the redesigned test:

1. Practice over the summer.

The vast majority of educators spend a significant part of their summer learning about new teaching methods and theory, and private tutors are no different. The first thing for test prep tutors to do is take the new SAT full-length practice exam, which is now available on the College Board website. The College Board recently partnered with Khan Academy to provide free test prep materials, and this is a great place for tutors to become familiarized with the new format.

2. Become a mentor.

A great test prep tutor will also serve as a mentor, coach, and therapist. Tutors working with students on the 2016 SAT (or the 2015 PSAT) should be prepared to work with some very anxious students and parents. To be honest, if I were a high school student taking the inaugural redesigned SAT, I would be nervous too. It’s essential that kids’ confidence levels stay high so that their nerves don’t get the better of them. Although it may not be obvious, a tutor who is also a good listener will be able to help her students more effectively.

3. Brush up on advanced math and the U.S. founding documents.

According to the College Board, the redesigned SAT will include excerpts from U.S. founding documents, such as the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Additionally, the new test will include math problems that are applied to other subjects, such as science and social science, as well as real-life career situations. Tutors need to brush up on these topics since it may have been awhile since their high school math and government classes. Tutors must master the concepts behind these advanced topics so they can explain them to their students, but still remember that these topics are just a new context to employ the same skills the SAT has always tested.

Looking for more information about the new math section? Check out this article, What Will Math Look Like on the New SAT.

4. Learn about the new essay.

On the new SAT, the essay section will be optional for students. Each college states its requirements for this component of the test as either required, recommended, or neither. Students and tutors can find policies for specific colleges on the College Board website.

It’s a good idea to have students take the essay just in case they decide to apply to a school where it is required or recommended. That said, if a student is totally sure she does not want to apply to schools that require or recommend the essay, she can forgo learning how to tackle it and focus instead on other sections of the test.

Until now, tutors have been helping their students write about their opinion on a topic, but with the 2016 exam, students will need to identify the author’s argument on a topic. This can be a big adjustment, because it requires students to critically analyze the message in a text.

Personally, I recommend that tutors double the amount of time spent on preparing students for the essay in 2016. By 2017 or 2018, tutors will have a better idea of how long it takes students to master these skills, but for now it’s best to be on the safe side.

5. Stay current with educational news.

Because more information regarding the redesigned SAT is being released each week, it’s important to stay current with educational news. Private tutors should be checking the College Board each week (you can sign up for a College Board newsletter), reading respected educational blogs and articles, and collaborating with colleagues.

Some sites I suggest for staying up to date are Noodle, Teach Thought, College Xpress, Edutopia, TIME Education, and U.S. News Education.

6. Discuss the preparation and dedication required with students and their parents.

Students who need more time to master underlying content or who are overly nervous may need more time to prep. They may also need to dedicate themselves to taking the exam several times. Students should start early and take the official test but perhaps not send their first scores to admissions departments at the outset. When students plan ahead, they do have time to improve their scores but will need help from their tutors to manage a reasonable timeline to achieve this goal.

Follow this link to find advice about coping with test anxiety.

The Bottom Line

Although many SAT tutors feel as if they are learning the new SAT along with their students (and in many ways they are), there are several steps they can take over the summer to get ready for its 2016 launch. The most important thing is to take a sample test straight from the College Board in order to know, firsthand, what students will be facing next year.

You may also want to consider encouraging students to take the ACT as opposed to the SAT for this pilot year. Read 6 Reasons Not to Take the New SAT to learn more.