How will the SAT change?

6 Mar


The College Board announced March 5 that it will be making changes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)–the first changes since 2005.

The changes seem to be in response to two forces — states’ adoption of the Common Core and the rising popularity of the ACT, which for the first time in the last year was taken by more students than was the SAT.

The changes will not take place until the spring 2016 SAT, but here’s a summary of what’s ahead for current high school freshmen and younger students:

1. No mandatory essay: Like the ACT, the essay will be optional. That means that the overall score will be 1600 (800 for math, 800 for critical reading), instead of 2400. A separate score will be provided if students take the essay. This will make the exam three hours long instead of three hours and 45 minutes. (Those who do the essay will have 50 additional minutes.)

2. No scoring penalty: Students will not be penalized for wrong answers. That means that students should bubble all answers instead of leaving any blank that they were not able to finish.

3. Vocabulary changes: Students will not be tested on obscure words; instead, the test will focus on words that are “widely used in college and career” such as analysis and synthesize.

4. Limited calculator: The use of a calculator will be limited to only certain portions of the math section.

5. Digital option: The SAT will be available in paper and digital forms.

6. Historical document: Each critical reading section will have one passage from an American founding document, such as The Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address.

One nice arrangement the College Board has set up is that it will offer a free SAT prep program online through Khan Academy. The College Board has received criticism over the past that wealthy students had an advantage over others because of their ability to pay for costly SAT prep programs that can cost a thousand dollars or more.

Are these changes good? Time will tell! In any case, colleges have indicated that the best indicator of college success has been a student’s success in high school, so it is important to take the most challenging classes your high school offers and then do your best in those classes.

The College Board will post the first sample SAT test on April 16. More information is available on the College Board website:

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