Last week, the new Standard Assessment Test (SAT) format and details were released to the public. This comes one year after the College Board announced that there was going to be an extensive makeover to one of the most commonly used college entrance exam. However, the new SAT will start to be used from spring of 2016 but before then the College Board has teamed up with the Khan Academy to provide the free online test preparations. The change does not only affect those in the United States of America but for all those applying to US based universities. Here is a breakdown of the key structural changes as highlighted by The Atlantic:
The exam will return to the 1600-point scale that was used before 2005, and test takers will no longer lose points for a wrong answer. In the past, each wrong answer received a quarter point deduction, while an unanswered question resulted in no deductions. This method led SAT tutors to encourage students unsure of a question to guess only if they could eliminate one of the five answer choices. The new model will encourage students to answer every question on the test to maximize their potential score.
End of SAT words
The era of “SAT words” is over: The exam will now focus on words that “are widely used in college and career.” The press release uses “synthesis” and “empirical” as examples and explains, “‘SAT words’ will no longer be vocabulary students may not have heard before and are likely not to hear again. Instead, the SAT will focus on words that students will use consistently in college and beyond.”
Essay is Optional
The essay section, which was once a required and controversial part of the writing section, is no longer required, and will be scored separately from the rest of the exam. The release gives two reasons for this change: one, the essay has not historically been predictive of college readiness and success, and two, College Board member admission officers couldn’t agree on whether the essay was useful
The optional essay will ask students to analyze evidence. It will be graded based on the “strength of the analysis as well as the coherence of the writing.” The previous version of the essay asked students to answer a prompt using their own background and experiences, and evaluators did not verify the accuracy of their argument or examples. The previous essay had to be completed in 25 minutes; students will now have 50 minutes to write the essay.
Source documents on the SAT used to be a perennial surprise for students: Reading passages could come from any source and be about any topic. Now, each exam will include a passage drawn from what the College Board is calling a “Founding Document” or a “Great Global Conversation.” They use the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream speech” as examples. The other documents used on the exam will also now be from a wider range of academic disciplines; in particular, historical and scientific material was not required to appear on the old SAT. Now students will read source texts from science, history, and social studies and be asked to “analyze them the way they would in those classes.” Data will also appear more on the new SAT: Students will encounter questions about text and data, including questions about “identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two.”
Other changes include:
- The SAT will be offered in both print and digital formats.
- Calculators will only be permitted on certain portions of the math section. The math section will focus on fewer topics.
- Income-eligible students will receive fee waivers for their applications to four schools.
There pros and cons of these changes are sure to be a source of debate in the days to come. The president of the College Broad admitted in a press conference that the SAT was archaic and disconnected from high schools in the US. For parents, the need to higher expensive tutors just to prepare for the SATs will be a relief for most.
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