Thousands of high school students will sit down on Saturday for the time-honored ritual of taking the SAT. The juniors in the group will be in the last graduating high school class to use the current test. The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, announced a long-rumored major overhaul of the college admission test to bring it into the computer age and try to make it more relevant to college coursework.
In recent years, the ACT college admission test gained ground as the preferred college admission test by some students and schools. It is believed the declining market share for the SAT test led to the latest overhaul. The redesigned test will be used starting spring 2016.
The major SAT overhaul reportedly puts more emphasize on test areas researchers believe will predict college success. They are making other changes, such as going back to the old 1600-point scale, versus the 2400-point scale introduced nine years ago. A welcome change is that the test will finally be offered online at select locations versus filling in the traditional Scantron sheet bubbles.
One way the SAT is changing deals with vocabulary testing. The revamped test will see whether a student can interpret the meaning of words in the context of sentences. No more memorizing obscure words and meanings that are rarely used.
Another change will see if student can interpret and use evidence found in sources. For example, there might be a passage to read then questions that ask the student to indicate where the answer can be found. The test will also ask them to analyze sequential paragraphs to test comprehension.
The math section will focus on math skills used in a range of majors. There will be three main areas: problem solving and analyzing data, algebra and linear equations, and what they are calling “Passport to Advanced Math,” which will see how familiar a student is with complex equations. The bad news for students is that there will be more limits on when a calculator can be used.
There will be real world scenarios built into the reading , writing and math areas that pull from other disciplines. For example, the College Board says they will review texts from history, social science and other contexts. In addition, student will have to comprehend graphics and data, solve problems and do more science-related analysis.
The essay, which is currently mandatory, will become optional with a separate score. The essay section will now require a student to read a passage and then write an argument referencing information in the reading. This structure is believed to better indicate how the student will do on college writing assignments than the old test where the student wrote on a general topic.
Lastly, the new SAT test eliminates the guessing penalty. In the past, there were points deducted for wrong answers, so it hurt a student more to guess wrong than leaving the bubbles blank. The new scoring system will only count right answers.
The changes will undoubtedly be a boon for test preparation companies. Kaplan Test Prep reported that uncertainty about what to expect with past SAT test updates (in 1994 and 2005) led to two of their biggest growth years. However, to make sure paying for expensive prep courses does not favor wealthier students, there will be free online SAT tutorials available.
The College Board is a non-profit association whose membership represents more than 6,000 leading educational institutions. It was created as the College Entrance Examination Board in the late 1800s and they worked with universities to develop and administer the first test in 1901.Today, the organization is best known for administering the Advanced Placement test program and the SAT exams. They work closely with their member colleges to ensure the tests stay relevant and worked with universities on the major 2016 overhaul to the SAT test.
By Dyanne Weiss