Big changes to the SAT coming Spring 2016

Posted on March 12th, 2014

Just when you thought you had the format down, changes are coming to the SAT.

The reason for the changes, according to David Coleman,  president of the College Board, the organization that creates and administers the SAT, is that the SAT and ACT have  “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

New scoring, topic areas for revised SAT

Starting in the spring of 2016, some of the changes to the SAT will include:

1. College-level vocabulary

Traditional, less common “SAT words” (such as “depreciatory,” and “membranous”) will be replaced with vocabulary commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”

2. Essay: optional

The essay portion of the SAT has been required since 2005, but it will become optional in Spring 2016. However, colleges can still require applicants to take this portion of the test. Test takers who choose to write an essay will be asked to read a passage and analyze how its author used evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements to build an argument.

3. No more “guessing penalty”

The guessing penalty, in which points are deducted for incorrect answers, will be eliminated. This scoring system is the same as the ACT, in which only correct answers are counted and students are not penalized for wrong ones.

4. 2 sections scored out of 1600, not 2400

The overall scoring will return to the old 1600 scales, based on a top score of 800 for each of the two sections (reading and math). The writing section that comprises the current SAT will no longer be required. The optional essay will have a separate score, rather than being part of the overall SAT score.

5. Math section narrowed down to 3 main topics

Math questions will focus on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted on only part of the math section.

6. Reading comprehension emphasized

The reading and writing section will include  source documents from a broad range of disciplines, including science and social studies. Reading comprehensive and argument develop will be emphasized, with students being asked to select the quote from the text that supports the answer they have chosen.

7. Historical documents included

Every exam will include a reading passage from either one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, or from one of the important discussions of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

A more fair standardized test?

A big reason for the changes is the criticism the current test has received for favoring wealthy students from high-performing high schools over minority and low-income students.

Other critics claim high school grades are a much better predictor of how well an applicant will do in college than standardized tests, and the SAT is more about how well you can prepare and learn the tricks than an actual indicator of one’s academic ability.

The new exam aims to be a more fair and equal version of the test, closely connected to the new Common Core teaching standards adopted by many states.

We believe the elimination of the writing requirement is a step in the right direction toward a more objective test, but we still see ways the new tests could discriminate against certain groups–particularly foreign-born students in the case of the inclusion of “founding documents.”

Your SAT/ACT score can get you free money for college

Since the SAT and other standardized tests are often used to determine merit aid and/or scholarships, it’s important to prepare thoroughly and be familiar with the test to maximize your chances of receiving financial aid for college.

Before the new exam starts, the College Board will partner with Khan Academy to offer free online practice problems and instructional videos explaining how to solve them, which help increase access to test preparation materials many poorer students lack.

What do you think of the changes? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter at @CFGCollege.

Category: College Admissions

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