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Redesigned SAT to focus on skills most important for college readiness


Thursday, March 06, 2014

The College Board recently announced the changes the SAT will undergo for the spring of 2016. Some of the modifications are a result of new technologies: for example, students will have the option of completing the test on a computer. Other changes, however, are more unexpected, such as the removal of the penalty for wrong answers and the shift back to a base score of 1600.

Here are a few of the changes that college-bound students can expect to see on the revised SAT:

A math makeover
The math sections will be dramatically different than in the past. Students will not be permitted to use a calculator for every question, for instance, but instead only on certain queries. Questions will be focused on three areas that the College Board believes are the most important for higher education: algebra and linear equations, problem solving using ratios and percentages, and more advanced complex equations.

Changes to reading and writing
Perhaps the most significant change comes in the reading and writing sections. The essay will now be optional, and students who choose to complete this portion will be asked to analyze a source. Instead of asking test takers to share personal experiences to showcase writing style, they will have to scrutinize an author's argument and use evidence from the passage to support claims, which is more in line with college writing.

Additionally, the reading section is eliminating irrelevant words from its vocabulary questions and will focus on identifying words more commonly used in a college classroom. Using context clues and sifting through important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, will also be emphasized. Many of the questions are going to pull from subjects such as social studies, science and history, which will keep the test more in line with what students are actually learning in the classroom.

Test prep becomes more attainable
Not all of the changes are restricted to the test itself. The College Board also announced that it has partnered with Khan Academy, a video-based test prep service, to create free resources for all students to use. These clips, which will feature actual SAT questions, will extend otherwise costly test prep materials to students from low-income families.

"It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country," College Board president David Coleman said. "It may not be our fault, but it is our problem."

To further support the college aspirations of low-income and under-represented students, College Board will provide four college application fee waivers to every income-eligible student who takes the SAT.

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