The free online test prep, developed in conjunction with the nonprofit Khan Academy, gives students customized feedback as they progress through the material. To start each subject, users take a short quiz to determine the level of difficulty for the practice test questions. Then, after they work through items, the system highlights wrong answers and provides detailed explanations of the math, writing or reading items. There are also video lessons and reference articles available to help students hone their skills.
College Board officials say they hope the personalized, interactive nature of the tool will help level the playing field for students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to private test prep. The New York-based nonprofit announced a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to train personnel to help students work through the online practice materials in their after-school clubs.
“We can’t do it alone,” said College Board President and Chief Executive Officer David Coleman, of preparing students for the new SAT, in a press call last week. The Boys and Girls Clubs, which have 4,100 sites across the country serving primarily low-income, racially diverse students, will pilot the new online prep system at a few locations and eventually offer it widely as part of its college-access program, club officials said.
Coleman said the redesigned test and accompanying online materials are aimed at reducing the anxiety surrounding the SAT and to “calm the waters a bit.” The free tools allow students to practice for the test in depth, he said. “We aim to make it a more organic part of what students are doing, rather than last-minute prep,” said Coleman. “We are trying to cultivate productive practice.”
The new SAT will eliminate obsure vocabulary words, not penalize for wrong answers, and reflect more of what students are learning in high school, College Board officials said when the new exam was announced last year.
This fall, a new Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test and PSAT 10 will also roll out for high school juniors and sophomores. Replacing the College Board’s ReadiStep assessment will be a new PSAT 8/9 test. That new exam is slightly longer and will also reflect the changes being made to the SAT. (Compare ReadiStep and PSAT 8/9 here.)
Commercial test-prep companies, such as Kaplan, are also updating their materials to reflect the new tests. Company officials say demand is up as students try to get ready for the changes to the SAT, PSAT, and ACT through its new courses and free online SAT tests. (Kaplan’s 18-hour SAT prep courses start at about $700.) With the more rigorous tests, students can do better when they also review the material with instructors, said Michael Boothroyd, executive director of business development for Kaplan in New York.
“Old-school teaching is essential,” he said in a phone interview. “A big piece is knowing you have people on the journey with you to ask questions.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.