Students preparing to take the SAT: your prayers have been answered. Say good-bye to required essays, penalties for wrong answers and uncommon vocabulary words like “prevaricator” and “sagacious.”
The makers of the college entrance exam taken by millions of students each year have announced a series of sweeping changes to be made in the test. Teenagers have their educators and families to thank for the overhaul. Both parties have been raised ongoing concerns about the relevancy of standardized tests to high school teachings and the expensive test preparation process. College Board President David Coleman has criticized the test for “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”
“While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before,” Coleman said.
Some of the changes that have been reported include:
- Score scale will be 1,600 with a separate score for the essay compared to today’s possible total of 2,400.
- Can be taken in either paper or digital form, not just by using a pencil.
- Will include a passage drawn from “founding documents” such as the Declaration of Independence or from discussions they inspire.
- Calculators will be permitted only on certain portions of the math section, not on the entire section.
- Students will be asked to analyze both text and data in real world contexts instead of answering questions that don’t require that.
- Vocabulary words more widely used in classroom and work settings will replace more obscure vocabulary words.
- Essays will measure students’ ability to analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument, not just students’ ability to construct an argument.
- The math section will draw from fewer topics instead of a wide range.
The update will go into effect in spring 2016, which means this revision–the first since 2005–will affect students who are currently in ninth grade and below. The full specifications of the exam along with extensive sample items for each section will be released on April 16 of this year.
For students taking the current SAT, hundreds of previously unreleased practice problems from actual SAT exams, along with more than 200 step-by-step problem solving videos, are now available on Khan Academy. Free test preparation will also be offered worldwide through the College Board and the online learning platform Khan Academy.
“For too long, there’s been a well-known imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn’t,” said Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy.
To address the matter of money, Coleman also announced that every income-eligible student who takes the SAT will directly receive four fee waivers to apply to college, removing a cost barrier faced especially by low- and middle-income students.
“What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities,”Coleman said. “The real news today is not just the redesigned SAT, but the College Board’s renewed commitment to delivering opportunity.”
“We’re thrilled to collaborate closely with the College Board to level the playing field by making truly world-class test-prep materials freely available to all students.”
Because a majority of U.S. colleges require the SAT or ACT, using scores as a benchmark for admission qualifications, this overhaul will have an impact not only on students’ academic futures, but their professional futures as well.