#112 Ushering in the New Digital SAT with Jackie Pollina Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:32

In a world where digital is the new norm, the LSAT college entrance exam has significantly transformed from paper to an online adaptive format. This is the most significant overhaul of the LSAT to date. Jackie Polina from j&j test prep and no BS LSAT prep is joining us today as an expert in navigating this change. Together, we’ll explore the differences between the old and the new versions of the LSAT highlighting the digital test timing, format and structure. Jackie will provide valuable insights into why the digital LSAT aligns with the online habits of today’s teens, and offers a better framework for improvement compared to previous paper versions of the LSAT. Since she prep students for both the AC T and the LSAT, we will also touch on how this revamped version stands alongside the AC T giving you the information you need to decide which test better fits your team. At the time that we are recording this. Dartmouth is the first IB to announce that it is returning to requiring test scores joining the ranks of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee public universities as well as Purdue MIT, Georgetown, and frankly, quite a few others. This conversation is a must listen for parents and students preparing to tackle the college admissions process. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Jackie, welcome. Hello,


Jackie Pollina  02:22

Lisa, thank you so much for having me on today. I’m very, very excited to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:27

Wow. I’m excited to have you because I have to say you and I met originally through the National Test Prep Association. And you’re probably one of the top people I know to be excited about this digital LSAT. I mean, if it’s something to be excited about. You are excited about it. You have I’ve watched you over the last year plus pour yourself into getting to know this test. I mean, luckily it was out there internationally a year ahead of you know, this week, the time that we’re dropping this episode will be the first US digital LSAT. So stuff was out there. And I just I call you the expert on this because I have been watching from the sidelines going okay, she knows it all. So update our listeners today. So why do you you know, a lot of people want to hang on to this idea that kids test better on paper test, that old school testing is what’s best, but you really firmly feel like this is going to appeal to our teens and their online habits better. So kind of talk us through that, especially for I’m gonna just say, I know there will be a lot of doubters out there.


Jackie Pollina  03:48

Yes. Believe me, I encountered my fair share of doubt about online testing. So um, for those of you guys who don’t know, I do run a test prep tic tock called test prep tips. So the proof is in the pudding that kids like to learn about the LSAT in an online format on that Tik Tok account. I have almost 300,000 followers, post videos all the time on there, you know, we get kids with their feedback, asking questions, commenting things. So,


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:21

okay, well, let me ask you, so I mean, there are plenty of parents on Tik Tok as well. I am not really on it myself, but my sister in some of my friends will send me are they called tiktoks how bad that I don’t even know what they’re called. Grandmas are real. So I’m Tiktok Is it a? So they’ll send me you know, a funny one to watch or whatever, just to be humorous. So are your followers mainly students or parents or a mix?


Jackie Pollina  04:53

I’m from looking at my stats, I believe it’s like 95 plus percent of students like in the age range have definitely high school. So


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:06

okay, so there is like evidence that, you know, these kids are online and and they’re interested in better scores if they’re following you, and probably being entertained along the way as well. Of


Jackie Pollina  05:21

course, I have to keep the videos short, sweet, entertaining 30 seconds, or they’ll scroll on to probably, admittedly something more exciting than the LSAT. But yes, the idea is that if they are there, they do hope to improve their scores, and between the dancing and the cooking and whatever it is that comes up on their tick tock page, they’d like to learn a little test prep tip or trick. So I think it’s really interesting. I have actually from an article. So teens 13 to 18, spend nine hours on entertainment media every single day. And tweens, which are considered ages eight to 12 are on there for six hours a day purely on entertainment on social media. So this does not include anything that relates to them using the internet for homework or school related assignments. And


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:14

by the way, they are going to schools seven, eight hours a day, I’m like, I’m doing the math of like, okay, is this generation not sleeping?


Jackie Pollina  06:22

Or in the back of the classroom on tick tock? You okay, there you go. Yeah. Sleeping is phenomenal, either to answer your point. But the idea is that these kids are very, very well acquainted with computers and social media and the whole digital era, they grew up at a time where it was normal to have an iPhone at age eight, whereas I had to wait and begged my mom for a Blackberry when I was like 13 years old. So they’re very well familiar with how to navigate a computer. You know, basically, when grandma asks them, Hey, can you help me change a word doc into a PDF, it’s like second nature to them at this point. So our kids today know how to work the computer. So I think that this new online format, despite it being different, it really isn’t actually that different. Think of other tests, the GRE the MCAT. They’ve been online. Of course, this is trialing it out on a younger demographic, but it’s a younger demographic that grew up with technology, so I don’t anticipate it being a problem. And for any parents listening to this, I’m sure that it’s happened before where you’ve yelled, come down for dinner, one second mom and your child is on Tik Tok, or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever it is. Our students nowadays don’t have a very long attention span, which is why I think that the College Board came in really flush here by making this test a lot shorter, which we’ll get to in a second.


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:56

That Well, yeah, I mean, look, kid doesn’t want a shorter test, right? Yeah. And I would say to you know, you and I both know, people through professional test prep professionals through the National Test Prep Association, who are already they they live outside the US. And so they are seeing like, hey, the kids are adapting, like it might freak parents out. And I’m older than a little bit older than many of our listeners, but they you know, the kids are adapting and ready for online. They


Jackie Pollina  08:32

are we actually, I don’t exactly remember who but I know that we have a colleague overseas who had said something along the lines of the AC T was basically dead and it wasn’t even worth prepping for because the kids just loved the digital format and the digital LSAT so much that she shunted her whole like company towards that angle. So it’s definitely because


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:55

they’re there they will get into some opposing views. I mean, I you know, back on, I think it was episode number 90 Last fall I had we both know Adams nosa. Yeah, he got on. We didn’t talk about the LSAT really at all. But we were talking about you know, the AC t now is offered in two formats. So we’re this digital LSAT, there is no paper LSAT available any longer unless you’re doing like extended did or Accommodated Testing. But Adam and I were just talking about like okay, online AC t versus paper AC T and he firmly is on the paper AC t so I love these conversations because it’s not necessarily a one size fits all. It is a digital world that we’re living in. But this gives parents and students the ability to have conversations around this and try them out. So if people I’ll put that in the show notes Adams episode was episode 90. Should my teen take the online AC T, and it wasn’t online versus Oh my AC t VS sa t it was online versus paper AC T. But to your point we have seen people just go all in on this digital LSAT. So okay, so it’s it’s really well aligned. How is the test changed? I think the favorite thing you just teased it right there is it’s rad. It’s


Jackie Pollina  10:22

a much shorter format. Exactly. I also want to chime in with what you mentioned about the digital AC T, just because parents are probably not as familiar with this. The digital LSAT is in a much more tech savvy phase, the digital ACC still has a little bit of a way to go with regards to just not being as wonky with the technology. So I think that might be a factor in determining paper versus digital for the AC T the digital LSAT technology. I think it’s very seamless. And it’s great, because that’s not even an issue that we have to consider on that. That might be very,


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:59

yeah, well, that’s a very good point. I mean, obviously of College Board SATs going all in on digital, right? They’ve got a up they’ve got to up their game and do an a game where AC T’s literally just taken their paper test and put it on a computer and it can get a little clunky at times. I agree with you. Yeah, exactly.


Jackie Pollina  11:21

Especially science and reading with the long passages on a computer. Which leads us into the point. So how is this new digital LSAT different from the paper SATs? So after the PSAT was administered in schools back in October, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Were there a few proctoring hiccups? Sure. But students absolutely loved the format, I received so many inquiry forms of parents saying we actually don’t want to do a CT anymore. She loved the PSAT so much. We want to shunt our attention over to the LSAT, the kids absolutely loved the format, whether they thought they did better than they did, because of the adaptive nature of the test, which we’ll touch on in a little bit is a different story. But they absolutely love the format, the ease of testing and the length of the chat.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:13

You’re literally saying like on test day, your gift feels their emotions feel better, because of the format the length, and we’ll talk about if that leads to better outcomes feeling better on test day, but Okay, so what else? Oh, shorter test. Yeah, so sure.


Jackie Pollina  12:34

So we’re talking three hours versus two hours and 14 minutes. So the paper test was three hours, the new digital test is two hours and 14 minutes. And whether that sounds like a big deal or not, when you’re sitting in there nervous taking a standardized test that is largely going to dictate, you know where you can get into college, I think that those extra minutes save definitely are quite helpful. So in terms of other noteworthy changes with regards to this new digital LSAT, so on the old paper LSAT, we had Reading, and Writing and Language, which is a fancy way of saying the grammar section for parents who don’t know what writing and language means, those were divided into two separate sections, where you would get 400 points for reading, and 400 points for the writing and language or grammar, whereas now it’s just called English. And it’s just combined into reading grammar, all of that stuff comes together vocab in one module. So I think it’s a little bit easier for students because they can play with the time and cater to their strengths. If they’re fast with the grammar questions, they can go ahead and directly using the little toolbox, go to the grammar questions, then they can do the reading and have more time allotted at the end for that. So I think it gives the students a lot more flexibility in that


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:57

area. Right? I mean, this is how the AC T is before if you did the reading section, and you were quick on reading. You’re sitting there waiting. Yeah, until they say Okay, turn your test booklet to the next section. And let’s start the grammar. So now you’re saying like they’re all interspersed into one so the kids can kind of maximize their time management on the test.


Jackie Pollina  14:21

Exactly. And that’s something we work on in private tutoring is figuring out what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Are you good at vocab? Let’s just run through those initial questions really quickly, so you can save the time for where you really need it. And it’s great. They have a little flagging tool on the digital LSAT. So if you’re unsure you can flag the question. It’s very easy to see which questions you flagged you can come back to it so I’m a big fan of the interface to be honest with you. Another really, really huge change is Desmos and I’m sure your eyes are gonna light up Lisa So Desmos for those who don’t know is an on Line graphing calculator. So your child might have a ti 84, or some other calculator that you either had to buy for them for a math class or maybe rented it from the school. But definitely this provided on the actual testing interface and Desmos is so much more powerful in my opinion than the ti 84. Obviously, there’s a bit of a learning curve, sometimes, depending on where your child goes to school, they might be using it in their math class. But regardless, we’re actually adding a Desmos course to our platform very soon, for this reason Desmos and knowing how to utilize it as a tool, it’s really monumental, I mean, knowing how to take what they give you on the LSAT and plug that into Desmos. You can get systems of equations, questions, inequalities, types of solutions, you know, really, it’s infinite, how many questions you can use Desmos for? Well, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:54

saw somebody in our Facebook group that we’re in together, said, Desmos is so powerful as a tool when testing it almost feels like cheating. Like, yeah, it almost feels like an unfair advantage. And so, you know, I’m, I’m a non math person, I’m an English person, English history gal over here. But I was like, oh, you know, I remember when we would always say like, put your calculator away, put your calculator away. And those things really are gone, because we’ve got a calculator in our pocket all day long. And I you know, for parents is kind of like aI right now, you know, we talk a lot about college essays on the podcast as well. And it’s like, oh, gosh, don’t use AI to, you know, cheat or write your stuff. But it’s, you know, that is the whole idea of like, put your calculator away. Like, we’ve gotten this technology that’s super useful. Let’s learn how to use it appropriately. And I just, I thought that that comment about it’s so good and powerful, almost feels like you’re cheating. And you’re not it’s built into the test. But I think you just also hit something where, and we’ve got an upcoming episode with the test and the rest podcast people, we did a podcast swap. So it’ll be on an April. But you know what to consider when you’re looking at test prep, like how do you choose a test prep provider? What should you be considering? But part of test prep should be not just learning the test, but learning how to use the tools? Yes,


Jackie Pollina  17:35

exactly. And it took to add to your point, the calculator, there used to be a no calculator section on the LSAT the paper as at which they completely got rid of and I think that that’s exactly what you’re saying, we have these tools Desmos AI, so we may as well learn how to use them rather than just saying put the calculator away. I anticipate in 10 years we’ll have classes in high school college that are you know how to prompt a I had a prompt chat GPT rather than avoiding using it or considering it cheating or plagiarism and work. It’s going to be working with it rather than it working against us. Well, I


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:15

think to like, you know, my passion and specialty is college major and career coaching and an inside my we do a monthly q&a With all the students that are in our launch Career Clarity course, where we’re helping them figure out what major leads to what career then choose our college. But we talk a lot about like what employers want, we look at job posting things like that. They actually want candidates who are learning how to use a tool. So your student actually does need to do a prompt engineering course or learn how to leverage these tools is expected on the part of employers. It’s just like, you know, Excel probably could be considered cheating as well back in the day. And that is a highly valued skill by employers.


Jackie Pollina  19:08

Absolutely. That’s a wonderful point. Absolutely. I’ll also add, you know, is definitely going to be the end all be all. i It’s hard to tell obviously, they only have four blue book SATs at this point. If students are really navigating the Desmos Well, can I say with certainty that they’re not going to adapt the questions to put variables in there to make it a little bit. This is my new verb to make it less Desmos of all if you want to call it that. I can’t really say I guess we’re going to have to get feedback on that. But the point is, it’s definitely a helpful tool that I think will add at the bare minimum help with at least 20% of questions, even if they weren’t to take that approach.


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:52

But yeah, I mean it’s it’s just like in test prep you identify what like if you’re doing English you know if you’re better at humanity’s reading passage versus a prose fiction passage. It’s just knowing your strengths and knowing how to leverage them. And so, as you’re saying this, you mentioned, the the LSAT Blue Book, and our listeners probably don’t know what that is. So I just always is it’s easy when, as professionals we know, and I’m always trying to go like, Okay, what does the average parent not know? So let’s talk about the blue book. And what what you mean by that? Yeah, so


Jackie Pollina  20:28

the blue book is an app that you can download onto your computer or an iPad, whatever device you have, and it’s basically where they host SATs practice tests. These are real tests made by the College Board. There are currently on February 9 2024. For SATs, one PSAT. So hopefully they increase that bank soon, we’re all waiting for it anxiously. But that’s what we’re working with right now. So that’s what we mean by the blue book, it’s where you can access the digital LSAT practice test.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:01

So I have a question if the College Board has only these four tests out there for students to practice on. And it hasn’t even been given the first time domestically yet, but it has been given internationally. So they did test it. Let’s test the test, I guess on the international community first, can you really say that this new test would be more conducive? Or that students should consider the digital LSAT instead of the AC T? Like, as we’re, as we’re kind of like wrapping up in the next five minutes or so like? How does that all relate? Because there’s not a lot out there on this test?


Jackie Pollina  21:41

Right. So there is not a lot of information, I will be the first to admit that I mean, that’s exactly why we made no BS LSAT prep and added to 1700 Questions 200 videos is because there’s just a lack of material, the math content has really not changed much. The only thing that they’ve done is they’ve removed imaginary numbers, which is one tiny topic. But other than that, you can use a lot of the concepts from prior paper tests to supplement the math, that’s no problem there. And as far as the English, why I’m going to argue that this test is very conducive to an improvement is on the old paper LSAT, you would have these really long, hefty passages of 90 lines, where it would honestly better to watch the meant dry for most students than to read these. If you didn’t understand what was going on in that passage, you just sacrifice 11 questions, right? Whereas on this new test, it’s one passage one question. And all of the question types are so consistent across the board from one test to the next, like you have your main purpose, main idea completing the tasks, it’s very predictable what the question types are, and in what frequency they’ll appear. So even if there’s not that much information, it’s so consistent and to the book, what they’re asking that I don’t think it’s really an issue for English. And like I said, for math, it really hasn’t changed the content and the way that they’re asking questions, just Desmos is available and no imaginary numbers. So not really that much of a difference. And honestly, I think that one of the best things about this new digital LSAT is what we call notes questions. So there’s a new type of question that I’ve never seen before on the standardized tests, where basically, they give you a bunch of bulleted notes. And it’s just about extracting relevant information. And the real, the dirty truth is that you don’t even have to read the notes. If it says compare use the word life or similar, you know, like learning how to use the prompt to your advantage is very helpful for this test. And I would say that on the pay for tests, that really wasn’t going to be a major, a major help at all. So I think even with the lack of information, per se, it’s a very easy test to navigate, given that it’s consistent topics across the board, which Thank goodness. Right, right.


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:02

Well, I think you’ve some other really great points, too, that you brought up is we need to prepare for anything you know, I’m always preaching as far as the type of work that I’m doing at flourish coaching, like, start in the sophomore year, and continue to research careers and majors and figure out what aligns to you we are prep, that’s prep work for going into college to study the major and get out to work right? With testing. I’ve heard things that like seem like it really could help the student if they do some pre work, whether it’s even on their own or with a test prep provider to get to know the test so that they’re ready and they’re going to perform better because you cannot go into the test on test day and use Desmos for the first time. That’s


Jackie Pollina  24:56

absolutely an honor. So you wouldn’t even know Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:00

this would be I for sure wouldn’t know. This will be a great lead in to our friends, Mike, the episode with Mike and Amy, who we’re friends with in April about how to how to figure out what test props right for your teen. So, okay, so Jackie, I’m going to have you back on maybe later this year when we get some domestic essays under our belt. And because I know you’re going to be able to come back, because you’ve really gone. I mean, you haven’t shut down your AC T prep, but you have gone you’ve put so much work into this, you’ve really gone all in with elevating your the digital LSAT game. And so I think you’re gonna work with enough students and see enough results that we can kind of dissect this later in the year. So if a listener has maybe a sophomore right now, or a freshman right now, they’re gonna have more information later this year to further help them make their choices. But if you’re a junior, I mean, the latest, you can really take the LSAT for college applications to safely be able to apply to all colleges, it’d be at the beginning of October. So we’ve got what, March May, June, August, October, there’s five Yeah, SATs left this year for the class of 2025. Juniors before they have to apply to college. So hey, if they take that first one, and they’re like, I need to practice a little bit more and get to know Desmos. There’s time. Yes,


Jackie Pollina  26:34

there’s absolutely time and most of these 2020 fives have taken the PSAT so they should have a good baseline of what sections they need to work on what sub scores aren’t high enough. So rapidly, Lisa class of 2025 students already have a PSAT, most of them do at least. And that has a comprehensive score report that coincides with it has their sub scores their section score, so they can at least look at that and have a baseline and know Oh, it looks like my passport to advanced math is weak. Let me go ahead and straighten up before I come back in and take another test. So at least they have some sort of baseline that is of a digital format from the October PSAT.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:17

And a quick way to get started on test prep is to follow you on Tik Tok. So where can they find you on tick tock? Yes. So


Jackie Pollina  27:27

on tick tock, you can type in the handle test prep tips. So t e s CPREPTIPS. So test prep tips. That’s


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:37

where the students will be following you. And if a parent wants to reach out, where’s the best place to find you? Yes,


Jackie Pollina  27:44

wonderful question. So if you want to contact us, you can go directly to our website, which is J J test prep.com. So J. J tstprep.com/contact. So co MP ACC. Fantastic.


Lisa Marker Robbins  28:03

Well, we will definitely have you back. Because we want to hear okay, we thought all these things, and we’re anecdotally experiencing them. And how does it play out the rest of the year? Thanks, Jackie.


Jackie Pollina  28:16

Yeah, thanks so much, Lisa. pleasure talking to you.


Lisa Marker Robbins  28:25

As we wrap up with Jackie Polina on the transformative shift to the digital LSAT, it’s clear that this new format is not just a change, but likely an improvement, aligning seamlessly with our team’s digital world. The benefits from integrating the Desmos calculator and math to the streamline English section might be game changers and standardized testing. Now for your college bound challenge this week. Obviously, it would benefit your team to begin familiarizing themselves with a Desmos calculator. It is also used in the test NAB app that AC T currently uses on the online version of their test. Additionally, students can use it in math and science classes in both high school and college. In the show notes, I’ve added a link to the Desmos site with a tutorial on the calculator and tools for your team to practice. This episode really underscores the importance of staying informed and adaptable for those navigating the college admissions journey. As the landscape evolves, so too, should our preparation strategies. Thank you for joining us on College and Career Clarity. I’m Lisa marker Robbins reminding you that with the right information and support. Navigating the path to college can be a journey of empowerment and success. Let’s keep making informed choices together in one way you can do so is to share the podcast with a friend thanks