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Changes to the SAT

What's changing and how it affects you

Changes to the SAT

As of March 6, 2014, the College Board announced upcoming changes for the SAT college exam. It will alter what’s tested, how it’s scored and how students can prepare for the exam. This change is in response to widely felt feelings that standardized tests have become far too disconnected from the work actually going on within high schools. 


When do the changes go into effect?

The College Board will partner with Khan Academy for the first time to provide students with free test preparation starting in spring 2015. Students who are income-eligible will receive fee waivers to apply to four colleges for free.

The changes will take place in the spring of 2016 and the three sections will include evidence based reading and writing, math and an optional essay. Each is restructured to stop students from filling in the multiple choice bubble sheets. Now students will have to justify their answers instead of narrowing down or eliminating choices without solid reasoning. The new score will be out of 1600 instead of 2400 and will include a separate score for the optional essay. Students will also find that they do not lose points anymore for listing an incorrect answer.


How is the structure changing?

Although the test sections sound similar to their predecessors, College Board President and CEO David Coleman wants students to know the changes are quite noteworthy. The section that previously asked students to complete sentences with possibly memorized words on flashcards will be replaced by a section where students consider context of how words are used and these words have the potential to be used in students everyday vernacular.

Reading and writing sections will now require students to cite evidence for answer choices. They will ask students to look at a broader range of topics like history, science, social studies and literature.

The math sections will focus on data analysis and real world problem solving with some algebra and more advanced math. A calculator will no longer be used on every section within the math portion.

The essay that was added in 2005 will now be optional because it has been criticized as something that doesn’t distinguish students’ views and if their statements are true or their arguments are reasonable.


Why are changes happening?

These changes are taking effect to give students more opportunity instead of restricting the ways that they can succeed. Test questions will be designed to align more to the students’ current classroom environments and what they have learned.

Admissions counselors still find the data from exams useful but worry that the current content from the current exam has become disconnected from the work of high school students. Cost of test preparation and materials has also become a wide spread concern.

Students’ grades, academic consistency and precision, and involvement will still weigh more heavily in college admissions decisions over standardized test scores. However, the new SAT will ideally be able to compete with the ACT’s growing popularity.

The new test will take about three hours with a possible addition of 50 minutes for the optional essay. There is still much time before the changes take place and Coleman would like schools and students to utilize this time to prepare more. The College Boards partnerships will provide free test prep designed to make the test more accessible and apparent. Students can seek out these opportunities at their earliest convenience


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