South optimizes prep resources to simplify Illinois’ switch to SAT

As GBS experiences its first year with an Illinois-required SAT test, staff and faculty have worked to make the test preparation and classroom curriculum more inclusive of the test, according to John Klasen, director of college counseling.

Klasen says that in addition to the after school and weekend test preparation provided by the school, the Titan Learning Center (TLC) has been instrumental in supporting students through the switch. TLC Coordinator Joy Cooper explained that the TLC has collaborated with other test prep courses at GBS to ensure no content is repeated.

“All of us are sharing the same resources, and I wanted to make sure that we didn’t use the same questions they were going to use at night,” Cooper elaborated. “If a kid is paying for it, they shouldn’t do the same [practice tests and questions] for free.”

Cooper also said that the TLC did not want to forfeit any ACT prep resources that may still be useful for students that plan on taking both assessments.

“Knowing that this year juniors were going to take the SAT was a big deal for us but we are also mindful of the fact that many kids have acculturated to the ACT,” Cooper said.

Additionally, Principal Lauren Fagel says teachers have been studying the SAT in order to know what types of skills students will need on the test. This will allow them to best prepare their students about what to expect when they take the SAT.

“I know as a department, the teachers have been really digging into the SAT and seeing […] what we are emphasizing in our curriculum that we maybe don’t need to emphasize as much, because it’s not going to appear on the SAT,” Fagel said. “Or the reverse: what do we need to be emphasizing because we are seeing it pop up a lot?”

Cooper explained that while the ACT and SAT have become increasingly similar over time, it’s important for students to become comfortable with the question style of SAT when preparing for the test.

“My hope is that we would be able to reach kids who wouldn’t normally get exposure to those questions,” Cooper said. “I think if the first time you see a question like that is on the day of the test, you’re at a big disadvantage.”

Klasen agrees with Cooper, in that students need to adjust to the test’s format and know the test taking strategies that correspond to each of the tests. Regardless, Klasen thinks a big role in determining which test a student commits to taking is their comfort level with the format.

“I wouldn’t say I necessarily value one test over the other,” Klasen said. “I think they are both very good tests, [but] I really think it comes down to the preference of the student, in terms of which one they feel more comfortable with.”

Since students have the opportunity to take both the SAT and ACT, Klasen says it will be most beneficial to students to decide on one of the tests to improve on, as all colleges will accept either score.

“One of the things that make me a little bit nervous with the landscape going forward is students are going to be asked to straddle two different testing platforms,” Klasen said. “My advice has been [to] pick a test and go with it.”