College Board President David Coleman announced changes to the SAT this week, marking the first overhaul of the college admission exam since 2005. The changes are quite significant and will have a major impact on student test preparation and strategy, both in the short and long term.
With the number of students taking the ACT surpassing the SAT for the first time in 2012, College Board has been exploring new ways to catch up to the growing popularity of the ACT. Many of the changes to the SAT mirror the now-more-popular ACT, which does not have a scoring penalty, includes an optional essay, uses more evidence-based reading and interpreting, and announced in 2013 that it would go digital as early as 2015.
The unveiling of these changes comes months after the initial release of the new SAT was pushed back in order to give students time to take the revised PSAT/NMSQT before the revised SAT.
Here are some of the major changes to the SAT:
No point deduction for wrong answers. On the new SAT, students will not face a penalty for guessing. This is a major change for students in regards to test-prep, as test-taking strategy has previously discouraged random guessing. While this may be beneficial to scores in the long-term, students will have to adjust the way they prepare for the exam.
No more required essay. The essay portion of the writing section will now be optional. This is more aligned with how colleges use SAT scores when evaluating applicants, since many schools were slow to incorporate the writing subscore of the 2005-redesigned SAT in their admissions decisions.
The test will have three sections: Evidence-based reading and writing, math, and the essay, with the math section emphasizing quantitative problems like ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning, along with basic algebra, and more complex equations beyond simple algebra. Scoring will once again be on 1600-point scale. The SAT itself will be scored out of 1600, with the essay scored separately.
No more crazy SAT vocabulary. Now, the SAT will focus on “words that students will use consistently in college and beyond.”
More evidence-based reading and writing. The reading and writing portion of the new SAT will allow students to “demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources.”
The test will be three hours in length, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay. The exact timing of the test will be evaluated through research. This will make the combined SAT and the optional essay portion of the exam five minutes longer than the current SAT.
The test will be administered both in print and on computers, in certain locations. This comes on the heels of the ACT announcing its plans to administer its exam online, ushering in a new era of digital test-taking.
Coleman also announced that College Board will implement new initiatives to reach and support low-income students, including four college application fee waivers to all income-eligible students who take the SAT.
While this is a big change, families and students have plenty of time to prepare. The revised SAT will not be administered until 2016, however, it’s important for families to stay informed on what these changes mean for their test taking timeline, and how to approach preparing for this new exam. These changes could greatly affect whether the ACT or SAT is the best-fit test for a student.
On April 16th, College Board will share sample items for the exam, allowing families the chance to get a taste of the exam two years before it will be administered.