For current high school sophomores and those who follow them, the SAT is going to be a lot different than it was for their predecessors. The changes come in the form of a brand new SAT being rolled out for spring 2016. It will bring big changes intended to provide a more real world assessment of students’ readiness for college and careers beyond. The hope is that students will find the test clearer and more relevant, something that test takers and their parents have been requesting for long while.
There are eight key areas of the SAT that have been updated to address concerns voiced by test takers, parents and college entrance boards. One area that is going away is the timed essay which instead will be optional and scored separately. And now the exam can be taken online instead of with paper and pencil.
Here’s a summary of changes students will see in the revamped exam:
- Word Context: This section will test the student’s ability to understand the meaning of words in context, with a new focus on “relevant words,” or words that students are likely to encounter in school or at work, rather than those obscure terms that used to appear on the exam.
- Evidence: Evidence-based reading, asking students to determine evidence through interpretation and analysis of data graphics and text passages.
- Analysis: An essay section analyzing source text, and requiring students to convey careful reading and analytical skills. This essay is very similar to actual college essays, and challenges a student appropriately.
- Essential Areas of Math: Focusing on the three most commonly used areas of mathematics – core Algebra skills, complex equations in Advanced Math, and Problem Solving and Data Analysis testing the student’s ability to use quantitative reasoning to solve problems.
- Real-World Problems: Questions on the SAT reading and writing section will test student’s knowledge of literature and ability to understand other sources such as graphs, on subjects that a student may encounter during college or in a career.
- Science and History: Science, history, and social studies questions testing students’ comprehension and analysis skills focused in particular around current topics such as the environment, politics and world events.
- “Global Conversation”: The exam will include at least one passage from one of America’s founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers. Students are encouraged to examine and engage on the themes and ideas generated in these historic and influential writings that are relevant to building a strong citizenry of the future.
- Penalty for Wrong Answers Eliminated: With the new 2016 SAT, the wrong answer penalty has been removed. Student scores are tallied out of only the correct answers to questions. This encourages students to try and answer every question without fear of penalty for getting it wrong.
Time will tell what changes these effects have on average scores (the current being 496 on Critical Reading, 514 on Mathematics, and 488 on Writing). However, the change is expected to encourage more real-world thinking to help make the exam more relevant and raise awareness of current topics that have relevance to college-bound students. Students will now use more skills and information they have mastered in high school for the exam and the hope is more students will be able to do well on the exam and move on to a college career. Still, the goal will once again be that perfect score of 1600, and of course, even with these changes, the SAT remains an iconic and vital step for students heading for college. For more information on the changes on the new exam, visit the College Board website.
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