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College Entrance Exams: What’s New?

Last April, 115,000 Michigan high school juniors took a brand-new college entrance exam as part of a state-administered educational assessment known as the Michigan Merit Examination, or MME. The SAT might sound like the same old test that college-bound students have been taking for generations, but for these students, and for Michigan, the test was entirely new.

“The College Board changes the test every 10 years, and this change supposedly aligns with the Michigan Common Core curriculum,” says Scott Allen, owner of Bloomfield Hills-based College Quest Educational Services, an ACT/SAT test-prep company. “This time, they changed the test in response to the public. People hated the analogy portion and the sentence completion. They hated the guessing penalty.” 

In With the New

The SAT is a globally recognized test devised and marketed by The College Board. It replaces the ACT, the longstanding test administered to students and paid for by the Michigan Department of Education. 

At a cost of approximately $17.1 million for the three-year contract, The College Board’s bid was $15.4 million less than the closest bidder and was recognized favorably by the state’s Joint Evaluation Committee, which includes representatives from Michigan high schools, school districts and a Michigan community college.

The new SAT includes reading, writing and language, and math, with an optional essay that some colleges will require. (Michigan juniors will complete the essay portion.)

More “Real World” Questions

“Evidence-based” are the buzzwords to describe the new test, which requires more interpretation and synthesis from a variety of sources relevant to career life beyond education. The math portion favors more rigorous algebra, analysis and “proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science and career contexts,” according to The College Board. 

“There are deeper levels of questioning that require more inferring of the text, more ‘what the author suggests,’ more interpreting,” Allen says. “With more multistep algebraic problems, understanding the words of the question will be half the battle. It’s higher-level thinking skills in the math portion.”

Just months following the SAT’s debut, experts say the results are confusing. Scores were higher than expected, which could be a result of the grading curve, Allen says. 

“There are lots of unanswered questions as of yet,” he says. “I heard lots of happy stories, which made me curious. A lot of kids said it was easier than the ACT and even easier than the practice tests.”

Get a Taste With Online Support

Students can take advantage of free, personalized test-prep materials online through the nonprofit Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.org), according to college counselor Eva Dodds, with American College Consulting in Bloomfield Township.

“This is a really positive opportunity for students. Sophomores and juniors can register with the Khan Academy and prepare for the PSAT and the SAT, and it gives data back to your test-prep provider to help you prepare,” says Dodds, who is president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling. “The reality is I recommend all juniors take both the ACT and the SAT and see which test best assesses them as an individual student. Pretty much all colleges accept both.”

 – Claire Charlton

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