This spring when high school students take the new SAT for college admissions, they will need to sit a little more than in the past.
The new exam, which will take about half an hour more, will include some changes for students who take it this spring, according to the College Board which owns the test.
Overall, the format will remain almost the same with strict time limits and the bulk of the questions being multiple choice. However, the revised SAT will contain a new writing section in addition to the sections traditionally called verbal and math.
McDuffie County students have been paying close attention to writing skills, and the new section should benefit them, school officials believe.
"We have put such an emphasis on writing the past couple of years," said Kathy Collins, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
When the SAT changes were announced two years ago, McDuffie County schools enhanced the literacy program with a system wide plan to expand writing skills.
The plan enables students to build skills from the lower grades, helping them when they reach the upper grades to gain the writing proficiency needed for essays such as the new SAT requires, Dr. Collins said.
The 20 to 25 minute essay is just part of the new writing component. About two thirds of that section will be comprised of multiple choice copy editing questions.
What has been traditionally known as the verbal portion will be called "critical reading" and will no longer contain analogies.
The math section will contain some questions covering Algebra II, a step up from the old SAT, but will not contain quantitative comparisons.
Each section will offer a maximum score of 800 points, so with the addition of the new writing section, a "perfect" score will go from 1600 to 2400. The test will go from three hours to three and a half hours.
Thomson High School teacher Neil Osbon is preparing students for the test, and for the new writing portion, through an SAT Prep Class.
"Students need to show they can think critically and creatively, and express their views and opinions intelligently on paper," he said.
Mr. Osbon, a freshman and sophomore English teacher, recently attended a writing workshop given by the College Board so he could learn how the Board will score the essay. He can then train the students, helping them excel in writing and score well on the test. The test will have a score range of one to six, with six being "outstanding, demonstrating clear and consistent mastery," according to the College Board Web site.
Most juniors are planning to take the SAT for the first time in the spring, passing up the fall exam because many colleges want scores from the new SAT. The College Board also recommends students wait until the spring of their junior year because they will have covered more English and math in school.