Big Changes Coming to SAT

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: March 6, 2014 3:55 AM
Test Taking

The SAT that plays an important factor in college admissions is about to undergo some serious changes.

On Wednesday, College Board officials announced a series of sweeping changes to the test, which has not been updated since 2005.

A redesigned SAT will make its debut in spring 2016 and will do away with certain distinguishing factors of the test -- one change will do away with rare vocabulary words, with the test instead focusing on vocabulary more commonly used.

The new SAT will also be heavily focused on analysis, requiring test-takers to think critically about questions. In some portions of the math section, students may even be asked to hand in their calculators before answering questions.

The difficulty of the SAT’s essays will increase with the new test, scoring students on both analysis of an author’s argument as well as writing quality. The score will not, however, be used in the final score calculation and colleges can choose whether or not to consider it in the admissions process.

As a result of the optional essay, the test will revert back to its pre-2005 scoring of 1,600 instead of 2,400. Students will also not have points deducted for incorrect answers, but will instead receive credit for only the questions they answer correctly.

"It is time for an admissions assessment that makes it clear that the road to success is not last-minute tricks or cramming but the challenging learning students do every day," said David Coleman, president of College Board.

Nearly 1.7 million students took the SAT last year, and the test will be offered digitally in 2015, allowing students to receive their results within minutes of finishing the test.

"We hope you breathe a sigh of relief that this exam will be focused, useful, open, clear, and aligned with the work you will do throughout high school," Coleman said.

The principles of analysis align closely with the overhaul of the Common Core State Standards, which will also require students to think critically and analytically about subject material. Coleman himself was personally involved in the creation of the standards, which are currently being implemented in 46 states.

Florida opted into the national education standards, but the Florida Department of Education approved nearly 100 changes to the standards and rebranded them as the “Florida Standards.”

Not everyone was happy with the changes to the test, with some saying it still won’t predict college success or assess low-income students more fairly.

“The College Board’s failure to tackle the SAT’s historic weaknesses means that more schools will go test-optional,” said FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer. “Since the 2005 introduction of a flawed ‘new’ SAT, nearly 100 additional colleges and universities dropped admissions exam requirements... The truth is no one needs the SAT, either ‘old’ or ‘new.’

“Rather than simply making the essay optional to compete with the ACT, now the most popular admissions exam, the College Board should stop misuse of SAT results,” Schaeffer continued. “The company should refuse to transmit scores to schools and scholarship agencies that improperly require minimum scores for admission or financial aid.”

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen. 

Comments (1)

John Yan
10:39AM MAR 6TH 2014
Unfortunately, the new SAT won't be implemented until 2016, not even next year.

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