new-sat-dyslexiaThe new SAT starts March 2016.

From the New York Times,

“What’s true of the writing section is true of the new SAT in general: There’s much more to read. “The most fundamental change is that there are many, many more words,” said Aaron Golumbfskie, education director for PrepMatters. “If you don’t read well and happily, this test isn’t going to be your friend.”

Even the math section will require more reading, with fewer questions based on equations and more word problems. Some prompts will present the same type of real-world situations that the Common Core emphasizes — “The recommended daily calcium intake for a 20-year-old is 1,000 milligrams (mg). One cup of milk contains 299 mg….” Mr. Golumbfskie describes the math section as “tighter in focus.” The current test covers a lot of ground, with a question or two on each topic; the new one will drill down into a few key areas. Geometry is fading out. Algebra is stepping up: Prepare for linear equations and inequalities, and systems of equations in two variables.

The addition of more-advanced math, such as trigonometry, means the test will cover material from a greater number of courses. That will make it more difficult for students to take the SAT early. Some questions will require knowledge of statistics, a course relatively few students take in high school. And because one math section will prohibit the use of a calculator, students who use them in class may want to practice tackling calculations with pencil and paper.”

Other key differences on this exam: no penalty for guessing, option to opt-out of essay, essays are now evidence-based, requiring students to quote from reading passages to prove their point. Other changes: the new SAT is a little bit shorter, back to 1600 point total scale instead of 2400, and vocabulary based on context.  For more detail about the new SAT from the College Board, click here.   Graphic

What’s the most important thing to know for college-bound dyslexic students planning to take the SAT? Request your accommodations early. The College Board follows ADA regulations, but the latest ADA regulations are very new. Allow enough time and be prepared to appeal if you are requesting accommodations and your testing was greater than 5 years ago.

Opting out? Look at this growing list of colleges and universities that don’t require the SAT: SAT Optional Colleges and Universities

**For PREMIUM SUBSCRIBERS:  We’ll be taking a deeper dive into what the new SAT means for college-bound dyslexic students and accommodation requests. In a follow-up article, we’ll also share our exclusive interview with the College Board Disability Office and answer your commonly asked questions. Don’t miss it and support the dyslexia community too!**
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Dyslexia and The New SAT: Reading and Vocabulary

1. Increased Reading Demands for the New SAT – Ask for Reading and Time Accommodations

chartBecause of increased reading demands of all sections of the SAT, we are strongly recommending that students who have accommodations at school for coursework (typically audiobooks), apply for reading accommodations for the new SAT. Reading sections will be more challenging than many high school texts (they are meant to test dense college reading), and the challenging text will be seen in more sections (Writing and Math) than seen in previous versions of the exam.

We also strongly recommend requesting time accommodations for slow readers because of the increased quantity of reading and the need to read information closely for even math and writing questions. To date, the best reading assessment for college-bound dyslexic students in the Nelson-Denny Reading test. Althought the Nelson-Denny is not perfect, the model of the Nelson-Denny test has passages that are more comparable to the college-bound assessments tests like the SAT, and the multiple choices require greater complexity of analysis and inference. The Woodcock-Johnson has students silently reading passages then answering with a single word answer. The WIAT Reading Comprehension Test requires more than a single word answer, but the passages are shorter and simpler and don’t involve academic literary or historical passages. The Nelson-Denny also has norms for extended time which can also be valuable.

Don’t Make This Mistake!

It is very common for bright college-bound dyslexic students to think they may be able to ‘get by’ without accommodations for college-bound tests, but most don’t have the experience of taking a 3 1/2 hour test (with accommodations 5 hrs or 7 hrs). Students taking tests with extended time will have extra breaks; double -time accommodation students will usually have their tests over two days instead of one. Once a college entrance exam is taken without accommodations, it may be harder to receive accommodations from the College Board.

2. More Vocabulary Demands in Context

Most dyslexic students do better with vocabulary in context, but the challenge for vocabulary in the New SAT will be the use of longer passages and literary, historical, and science texts where words may have multiple meanings and simple memorization of ‘SAT’ words may not give you quick answers.

For example, in a sample question from the New SAT, a passage and question based on Ethan Frome is included:

The description in the first paragraph (follow link) indicates that what Ethan values most about Mattie is her
A. fitness for farm labor.
B. vivacious youth.
C. receptive nature.
D. freedom from worry.

From the passage: “The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie’s wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. ”

The correct answer is C, but students may have never seen the words ‘receptive nature’ together before and the passage does not refer to any reception or receiving either. The sentence uses a non-typical sentence structure and double negative (not and least) which also can be complicated for dyslexic (and non-dyslexic) students.

3. Some Changes in the New SAT Maybe Better for Dyslexic Students

There are some changes in the New SAT that may also be better for dyslexic students. Very rare vocabulary words supposedly are removed, and seeing word meanings in the context of passages generally helps dyslexic students as long as they have sufficient time to be able to read and process the full texts.

The old grammar section is gone as is the old Vocabulary section with dictionary definitions. Schools with Common Core text-based readings may fare better than less-prepared schools.

Stay Tuned for two more articles about Dyslexia and the New SAT in the coming week!  One is our exclusive interview with the Disability Center of the College Board. The other has resources for practice test information and helpful free apps preparing for the new SAT.

Download our  Dyslexia and the New SAT Infographic HERE.