What You Need to Know About the New SAT Test

Students in the class of 2016 may not be thinking much about it right now, but educators and parents are all abuzz about the new SAT test they’ll be taking in two years.

The College Board announced revisions in March and recently released details of the new framework for the test.

The new SAT test will:

  • have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • return to the 1600 scale. The essay will provide a separate score.
  • be approximately three hours in length, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay. The precise time of the exam will be affirmed through research.
  • test the few things that research shows matter most for college readiness and success, centered on eight key changes.

Highlights of the key changes include:

  • When students take the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Essay sections of the redesigned SAT, they’ll be asked to demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources. This is critical skill and better gauge for preparation for set for higher learning.
  • A focus on vocabulary used in everyday college courses such as “synthesis” and “empirical” rather than the sometimes obscure vocabulary that students were forced to memorize and forget. This is a promising change.
  • And, finally, the SAT will catch up with technology; a digital version of the exam will be provided in addition to the traditional paper version.

The College Board will continue to present updated information over the course of the two years leading up to the first administration of the redesigned exam. Updates will also be available on the organization’s new microsite.

The SAT is “supposed” to be an objective measurement of students’ college readiness. The purpose of standardized college exams is to provide colleges and universities with a standard method of measuring a student’s preparation for college. However, historically it’s been a poor predictor.

William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard University, said: “This is a clear message that good hard work is going to pay off and achievement is going to pay off. This is one of the most significant developments that I have seen in the 40-plus years that I’ve been working in admissions in higher education.”

According to the College Board, which oversees the SAT, the redesign is rooted in essential prerequisites in reading, writing, language, and mathematics for readiness for and success in postsecondary education. Evidence for these prerequisites, along with extensive feedback from colleagues in K–12 and higher education, was critical to shaping the design of the new exam.

The Washington Post reported that officials said the exam will be more straightforward but remain rigorous. Once billed as a gauge of college “aptitude,” with roots in the controversial practice of testing people for their “intelligence quotient,” the SAT now is marketed as a measure of high school achievement.

The Post also reported that the revisions appear to echo, in part, concepts embedded in the new Common Core standards for what U.S. students should learn in math and English from kindergarten through 12th grade. Those standards have been fully adopted in 45 states and the District. David Coleman, the College Board’s president and chief executive, was a key architect of Common Core. He started pushing for a makeover of the admission test soon after taking office in 2012.

In March, Coleman said: “What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities,” said Coleman. “The real news today is not just the redesigned SAT, but the College Board’s renewed commitment to delivering opportunity.”

In an effort to reach college-ready, low-income students, Coleman 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. In addition, the College Board is partnering with Khan Academy to provide the world with free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT, set to launch in spring 2015. The plan is aimed at leveling the imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn’t.

This is change is the most exciting. While it may simply be a ploy for positive press, it nonetheless benefits our neediest students.

Image via U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jason T. Poplin/public domain via Wikimedia Commons


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