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The New SAT

Life is always evolving. Similarly, so is the SAT! And recently, the College Board announced that they are implementing a number of changes to the exam. What prompted this revamp? Well, the College Board’s new president realized that there’s a disconnect between the current test and work that’s being done in high schools. And he’s aiming to craft an exam that more accurately reflects (and tests) important academic skills. So, what exactly will this new SAT test look like?


The modified exam will feature three sections: evidenced based reading and writing, math and the essay (which will now be optional). It will primarily be print-based, though select locations will offer a computer-based test. Moreover, the new SAT is anticipated to clock in at around three hours, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay. However, the timing will be finalized after further research.


Additionally, the redesigned exam will first be administered in spring of 2016 (sorry upperclassmen!). And it is reverting to the old scoring system. That’s right; say goodbye to the 2400 point scale. Students will now receive a score from 400-1600 (the essay score will be included separately). Perhaps more essential to note, students will no longer be penalized for incorrect answers. They’ll simply earn points for each question they answer correctly. Therefore, test takers won’t have to spend precious time weighing the risks/rewards of a potential guess. They can take their best stabs and move along!


Now, you’re probably also wondering what’s changing about the specific content as well. For starters, the math section’s focus is narrowing. Questions will be based on three areas: complex equations or functions, linear equations and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Also new, calculators will only be allowed on part of this section.

Further, the vocabulary used in the test will no longer be so arcane. Yes, rather than have test takers contend with words that they’ll likely never use, the College Board thought it prudent to incorporate vocabulary that students are liable to hear inside a college classroom. In addition, the new SAT will ask students to discern the meaning of certain words based upon context clues, a skill that definitely proves valuable far beyond the reaches of standardized tests.


Moreover, going forward, the reading and writing portions will include source documents from a wide range of disciplines. Students could very well encounter passages from science, social studies and literature as well as informational graphics. And rather than regurgitating the info they glean from these excerpts, students will be expected to interpret and synthesize what they read. They’ll also have to use evidence and select specific quotes to support their answers.

The redesign also intends to incorporate passages from either the nation’s founding documents (such as the Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence) or excerpts from important texts (like a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). And the impetus for this? Well, the College Board feels it’s important for students to interact with and reflect upon these works.


Finally, the (soon-to-be optional) essay is changing as well. Students will be asked to read a passage and then analyze how the author supported his or her argument. To craft a successful essay, test takers must conduct a close reading of the text and provide evidence (from the passage) to bolster their claims. This redesign is meant to more closely resemble writing assignments students receive in college.

It’s important to remain abreast of the changes that you could soon encounter on the SATs. After all, they will certainly affect your approach to the exam. And while the redesign might not quell all of your test anxieties, it’s nice to know that the College Board is making a concerted effort to reflect the academic skills you’re honing.



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Don Munce