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SAT Changes Coming in 2016

Coming spring of 2016, the SAT will change (almost) entirely. The College Board has been working hard to create an exam that dispels all of the criticism they have received about the SAT being a “test-taking skill” exam rather than a college entrance exam. The new SAT will be more focused on things that matter the most in college and the career-world. Eliminating answers and making educated guesses will not help students solve problems on this exam. (Although, there will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers!) Students will have to use deductive reasoning to work through questions that present problems that include real-world context.

The new SAT will still have three sections: Math, Reading and Writing, but the essay portion will be optional. These three sections will be scored out of 1600 points instead of 2400, with the optional essay section scored separately. Although the essay section will not be mandatory, some colleges might still require it so don’t bank on skipping over this section just yet. However, it will be nice to have the option between adding this score if it gives you a boost and foregoing including it if it won’t impress.

Beginning in 2016, students will have to analyze graphs, charts and passages for the reading section that will include material from their high school science, social studies and history classes. The math section will also be more comprehensive in the material that is presented. The questions in these sections will test reasoning skills used to solve problems in science, social science and other career contexts to analyze data and solve problems.

The writing and reading sections of the new SAT will remain similar in structure but will not present any obscure vocab words, like obstreperous. Students won’t be able to simply memorize endless lists of vocabulary words to prepare for these sections. Instead, students will have to determine the use of a word that is more relevant and regularly brought up in casual conversation.

For example, in the following: “The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and regions”, does “intense” mean concentrated, brilliant, emotional or determined? (For the curious, the correct answer is concentrated.)

College Board is truly turning this exam into a test of real-world problem solving and prediction of preparedness for college studies. There are high hopes that all these alterations to the SAT will finally begin rewarding students who are very bright but lack test-taking skills. The intentions are commendable but how will this affect the fate of students hoping to pursue higher education? That, unfortunately, is something that even College Board can’t predict.

 

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