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Changes to SATs might help students

Friday - 3/7/2014, 12:10am  ET

WASHINGTON -- The overhaul of the Scholastic Assessment Tests used in the college admissions process can cause anxiety, but test prep experts say there's no need to panic.

The changes - which take effect in 2016 - might help students, analysts say.

The College Board is changing the SAT to better align with what's happening in your child's classroom, says Ned Johnson, President and self-titled "tutor geek" at the Prep Matters firm in Bethesda.

"The devil will always be in the details, but it's probably going to be more like the kind of work that kids have to present" on AP (Advanced Placement) exams, Johnson says.

Dan Obregon, vice president of product management and marketing for Hobson's K-12, which specializes in education consulting, training and support, agrees that the new SAT will be more familiar to students.

"For example, essay questions will be grounded in real-life scenarios, and reading passages will include founding documents such as the Bill of Rights," Obergon says.

That means test prep will have to change, Obergon adds. "It can no longer be about just tips and tricks, but actually about delivering instruction to students."

Therefore, Obergon says, parents and students should ask schools the following question: "How will they deliver test prep programs that will allow my teachers to individualize instruction based on my needs?" And, he says, how will teachers get real-time feedback in order to help students assess their performances?

At Prep Matters, Johnson says he likes to emphasize the need for parents and students to take it easy and resist the urge to panic over the SAT changes. He tells parents and kids "to try to dial down their anxiety, because stressed brains just don't work as well as unstressed brains."

Obergon agrees. "There's no need to panic," he says. "In fact many of the changes should be beneficial" to students.

Visit Hobson's and Prep Matters for test prep advice.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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