Changes Coming to the SAT

Last week, the College Board, under the leadership of David Coleman, announced upcoming (Spring 2016) wholesale changes to the format of the SAT, one of the two most common tests needed for students to gain college acceptance.  For a few years now, officially every college that accepts the SAT also accepts the ACT, the main competitor to the SAT.  While the ACT remains more common in the Midwest and the SAT more common on the East Coast, the changes to the SAT announced this week by the College Board clearly demonstrate that the College Board is worried about losing market share to the ACT.  This is evident based on the fact that the simplest way to sum up the changes to the test is to say the new SAT will become very similar to current ACT.

Here is a quick summary of some of the key changes:

  • The essay, which will be 50 minutes and ask students to analyze a passage, will be optional.
  • There will be only two mandatory sections: a combined reading and writing (grammar) section and a math section. This means the scoring will revert to being out of 1600.
  • There will no longer be a penalty for incorrect answers.
  • The test will also be offered in a digital format, presumably to help students with special needs.
  • There will no longer be sentence completion (vocabulary) questions, which Coleman and the other new leadership at College Board deemed irrelevant to the way that words are commonly used in everyday life.
  • There will be graphs and charts as well as one key, well-known historical document included in the reading/writing section.
  • The math section will have at least some elements that do not allow the use of a calculator.
  • The PSAT (the practice SAT for students in earlier high school years, which also provides the scoring for National Merit Scholarships), will roll out the changes in 2015, before the official SAT change in 2016.

One additional note is that the College Board is partnering with the Khan Academy to offer free online test preparation to students.  Supposedly, the software will be adaptive to help students focus on those areas in which they are weak. The goal of this unique partnership is to enable students of lower means to have a free chance to prepare for the test, which many wealthier students are able to pay to do.

The full blueprint of the newly designed SAT will be released on April 16, 2014 at the following website:

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