The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

The voice of Lyons Township students for more than 100 years

LION Newspaper

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Technology take-over

SAT joins long list of digital Standardized Testing

Pencils down, students. This April 15, LT juniors will be taking the mandated SAT in its newly revamped online format. After many changes to both content and structure, the school has taken significant steps to prepare and familiarize students with what can be expected of the test. In addition to the official SAT being online for juniors, the PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 will also be digital.

“Students have been taking digital assessments for years in elementary and junior high schools,” Coordinator of Assessment and Research Kristine Zieman said. “The SAT was really the last assessment to make the shift. Students in today’s world are very comfortable with technology and it is such an integral part of their lives. This shift allows students to take the test using technology they are comfortable with.”

One major benefit of the online format is that the time of the exam has significantly decreased, Zieman said. The PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, and SAT without Essay are now 2 hours and 14 minutes for standard time, while the SAT with Essay is 3 hours and 4 minutes for standard time, a great improvement from the almost four-hour paper version.

“[The College Board was] able to make the tests shorter because they are utilizing a computer adapted model,” she said. “The SAT is [now] multi-stage adaptive. What that means is all students take module 1 [which] has a mix of [questions] from all difficulty levels. Based on a student’s performance in module 1, they are given either a high or low module 2. Structuring the test like this allows the test to ask less questions but still see what students know and can do.”

In other words, depending on student performance in the first module, their second module will be easier or more difficult, she said. If a student has the easier second module, their highest score possible will be capped. That being said, the cap has yet to be released by The College Board. Each student will take four modules: a Reading and Writing/Language Module 1 and adapted Module 2, and then a Math Module 1 and adapted Module 2. The type of module in the Reading and Writing/Language portion of the exam will not impact the math portion, with both sections still being worth 800 points each.

“Because the test is adaptive, we are really trying to keep students from getting in their heads over the question ‘how am I doing’ since how they perform in the first module determines which module comes second,” SAT Prep Coordinator Amy Johnson said. “If they are devoting a lot of mental energy and emotional energy to worrying about how they are doing in Module 1 as they are testing, that can impact their performance and ultimately play a role in which Module 2 they receive. When they are in Module 2, it is also not good for them to be spending energy trying to figure out if it is the harder module or easier module. At that point, there is nothing the student can change; all they can do is earn the maximum amount of points possible.”

Test question design has also been adapted in the online SAT, Zieman said. Where Reading and Writing/Language used to be separate sections, they are now combined. The reading prompts are significantly shorter and only have one question tied to each prompt, instead of the old one to two page passage with seven attached questions. In math, students are allowed to use a calculator for its entirety, and the online calculator DESMOS is embedded into the testing platform.

“With the test being adaptive, it is actually more secure,” Zieman said. “Students don’t get the same questions in the same order as their peers making it harder for them to share answers or look at a neighbor’s screen. The test is completed in a secure testing app, Bluebook, that is installed on each student’s chromebook, so that students cannot visit other websites.”

Bluebook applies student testing accommodations to the exam as well, such as extended time, Johnson said. Such accommodations are also programmed into practice tests that the app provides. Bluebook downloads the test onto students’ machines when they begin so internet is only needed at the start and the end of the test, Zieman said. As long as student Chromebooks are charged, they can continue to test even if the internet goes down or the power goes out. If there are other technological issues that arise, there will be loaner chromebooks on standby that can easily be swapped out. 

“The one thing that I say in the [SAT Prep] class to motivate the kids is that this is one, very intense, but very short period in your life,” Johnson said. “This could potentially be over by April 15. If you study now, if you put the time in now, if you work hard over these months, you can get the score you want and never think about the SAT for the rest of your life. It feels important, it feels weighty, it feels stressful, but this is not going to last forever if they just buckle down and focus.”

LT offers its $150 SAT Prep course after school from 3:30 to 5:30 or 6:15 to 8:15 Monday and Tuesday, as well as a free course during the school day lunch period on Tuesdays and Thursdays for those with jobs, sports, or family commitments, Johnson said.

“We analyzed that data last year, and the students who attended the entirety of the prep course were found to have 50% gains over expected growth,” she said.

While the prep course continues its similar structure of reviewing content with students and going over test-taking strategies, some content of the SAT has shifted, she said. For the English/Reading modules, the amount of vocabulary questions has increased to 34%. This is a concern for students who don’t have a robust vocabulary or aren’t big readers. It also puts multilingual speakers at a distinct disadvantage.

 Additionally, while there continues to be gaps in grammar knowledge and grammer confidence, the SAT has cut down on the amount of grammar topics that should be understood. As for the math portion, LT SAT math prep instructor Tina Dunn incorporates much more DESMOS practice so that students are able to maximize the beneficial test aid. Students can also practice the new format with online resources such as Khan Academy, in addition to Bluebook practice tests.

“[Preparing for the online SAT] has been great so far,” Grace Kerr ‘25 said. “I like having all of my resources in one place such as the calculator, formulas, DESMOS, and a timer to help pace myself.”

As she prepares for the SAT through the LT prep course, Kerr would recommend that all students practice for this new format so that each individual is set up for success.

“I feel like the only major challenge [I face] is having to adjust to everything online, but [challenges and benefits] differ depending on the kind of test taker you are.”

As the SAT shifts completely to an online format, the ACT has allowed students to pick whether they would prefer to take an online or paper exam, Zieman said. Similarly, this year there are a number of AP exams that have the option of being online, such as the English Language and Composition test. By next school year, however, nine AP exams will only be offered digitally, and that number is projected to grow. While AP exams will be online, their content and structure will remain consistent.

“I am really optimistic about the changes that have been made and the benefits they have the potential to bring to students,” Johnson said. “Even though it takes perseverance, commitment, and effort, you will see growth and success through hard work”.

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Jaclyn Cummings
Jaclyn Cummings, News Editor

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