Why the New, Free SAT Practice from Khan Academy and the College Board is a Game Changer for Students

By Nicole Hurd

I can remember like it was yesterday. I arrived on a Saturday morning at my rival high school and could feel the pit in my stomach. It was time to take the dreaded SAT. And like many students, I mistakenly felt my entire future would be determined in the next few hours. I was terrified.

Since I was fortunate to have access to resources, when my scores came back lower than I had hoped, I enrolled in a test preparation class. It was unlike any class I had taken before. I was not being exposed to great literature, inspired by elegant prose, or challenged by data and graphs. I was learning to take a test. To this day, it stands out as the most unrewarding experience I ever had in a classroom. My love of learning was not advanced, but rather my ability to guess more effectively on a Saturday morning. A huge learning opportunity was lost, as I was never taught the content I needed to answer questions correctly. The only focus was to add points to a score.

This is why College Board’s redesigned SAT and partnership with the Khan Academy to provide free, high quality practice are game changers. Students will have an opportunity to learn, and, at no cost! It may be 30 years too late for me, but for the thousands of students advised by the College Advising Corps and the millions of others who are also pursuing higher education, there has been a paradigm shift.

On the College Board/Khan SAT practice site, students will now take an assessment and know where they stand. Instead of learning a score and then trying to figure out how to guess better, students will engage in real learning. This practice is a natural extension of classroom learning—what a powerful tool for teachers, advisers, parents, and students. Yet what I love most is that the SAT is no longer a hurdle on the path to college, but rather a chance to practice, learn, and achieve excellence.

I am a bit of a nerd, so I always thought there were items I missed on that SAT 30 years ago that were probably worth knowing, but I never had a chance to learn them. The old test and the focus on test preparation as opposed to real learning and preparing for college robbed me not only of an opportunity to learn, but the chance to figure out an even more important lesson—that the way to master something is to practice. And the way to build confidence is to practice. What a gift that any student, regardless of resources or family income, can use this tool to assist them on the road to mastery. This is exciting on many fronts. For the thousands of students we serve, this tool is free and thus leveling the playing field. In addition, no longer will a student, filled with anxiety, learn about test preparation. S/he can now focus on the words and numbers that will open the doors not only to college, but to life long opportunity!

Nicole Hurd is the Founder and CEO of College Advising Corps. Follow her on Twitter @nfhurd.