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How the Ivy League Reacted to the New SAT

I’ll start off by saying that this post will be highly speculative. First off, the Ivy League is a patchwork of institutions, each with its own quirks and predilections.

So, how did the Ivy League react to the introduction of the new SAT? Indeed, there is no one answer, even for one school, as I’m sure that there are “different schools of thought” within each school. In addition, I have no idea what the Ivy League generally thinks. Many of my colleagues are ex-Ivy Leaguers, but that’s like saying I know somebody who knows somebody who knows…

But. There are some general trends that we can perhaps glean, though these insights will be leavened by a fair amount of my speculation.

No more vocabulary

How do you make a reading standardized test really difficult? Answer: you add difficult vocabulary words.

Or, another possible answer: you add sneakily crafted answer choices, so even though students think they’re answering a question correctly, they’ve actually fallen for a trap.

The New SAT has removed both of these. How would the Ivy League feel about it? Mixed. For one, a strong vocabulary is often the hallmark of an avid reader and accomplished writer. And those students who are able to eliminate answer choices based on keen analysis rather than on simple comprehension will likely thrive in the Ivies.

Yet, some within the Ivy League might feel that vocabulary is a relic of standardized tests from last century and that the new test does a better job at testing comprehension. In other words, it is better that you’ll be able to quickly sort through lots of dense text instead of being an avid reader of 19th century novels.

But perhaps the larger truth is that the Ivy League—like many of us—is waiting for the scores to come back. Does the New SAT do a good job of selecting for the super cerebral (Harvard’s average SAT score on the old test is 2237)? With all of its vocabulary and analysis, the old SAT was difficult and all but the brightest were able to get a perfect 800. Will the new test be able to set such a high bar? If not, the Ivy League might not end up putting much value on the new test.

The optional essay

One area in which the Ivy League is clearly split is the optional essay. Only Yale and Princeton are require it, though since they are among the top Ivies, other Ivy League schools might be soon to follow.

But why not require it? Well, one reason is the old SAT essay prompts (and the essay in general) had a stigma around them. Many felt that the essay was too easily gamed and wasn’t a measure one’s ability to be a persuasive writer. Many schools in the Ivy League are waiting to see if the new essay is what the College Board, the writers of the SAT, says it is: a better measure of analytical writing. Until then, they do not want to subject all applicants to unnecessary torment (the essay is given at the very end of the SAT, after students are completely zonked).

The proactive and plucky student might want to take the essay anyway. Who knows exactly how Harvard would weigh a perfect writing score against no writing score at all. I could speculate some more, but for now let’s say a lot is up in the air until the scores are tabulated in May.

About Chris Lele:

For the last ten years, Chris has been helping students excel on the SAT and the GRE. In this time, he’s coached 5 students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog, and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.

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