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How to survive Michigan’s switch to the SAT

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If you heard a thud in January, don’t be alarmed. It was just the sound of jaws hitting for floor when Michigan officials announced the state was switching to the SAT from the ACT as the college admission test.

Michigan has been an ACT state for as long as most can remember. And it’s been offered as part of the Michigan Merit Exam to all public school juniors since 2007.

The SAT has long been the college admissions standard in other states. Originally an acronym for Scholastic Aptitude Test, today, SAT just means SAT. It has a reputation for being tough. Some think SAT is an abbreviation for Scary Aggravating Trouble or Sick And Twisted.

So the announcement caught many off guard. But don’t panic just yet. The switch isn’t happening until 2016, so it means nothing to high school juniors and seniors.

Freshmen and sophomores? That’s another story: The change coincides with a major overhaul to the SAT that rolls out in 2016. That makes it harder to prepare, but not impossible. Here’s some tips for navigating the change and making your SAT a Super Awesome Triumph:

Take the PSAT this fall.
The practice test likely is the first glimpse to the new SAT. Many schools offer it for free. If yours doesn’t, start saving. It’s worth the investment.

Bone up on your studies.
The new test is expected to better gauge classroom comprehension. So the more you understand, the better you’ll do.

Review the changes.
The College Board, the company that operates the SAT, says the new test will be a better measure of college readiness. Essays will more closely resemble high school writing assignments. Students will be asked to interpret evidence and read a passage, then expound on it. Math will be focused on “real world” applications that involve graphs and charts. And students’ knowledge of “founding documents” — the Constitution and the like — will be tested.

Practice the changes.
Sample questions and a detailed description of the changes are already available online. Take a look at the redesigned SAT here and even try your hand at a few sample questions.

Guess away.
The new SAT will include no penalty for wrong answers. That’s a big change and should change strategies of test-takers.

Take both tests this spring.
If you can afford it. If not, ask school counselors if you qualify for a fee waiver.

Pay attention to details.
But don’t overly worry. Do your work, prepare accordingly and trust your diligence. Things have a way of working out.

It’s an approach that will serve you well at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities, where students forge success by following their own path.

The colleges are smaller and emphasize community over crowds. Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates and smaller class sizes for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.