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An overview of the redesigned SAT

GWU Trustee Gate
GWU Trustee GateCathy McMeekan

Coming in the Spring of 2016, the College Board will release the redesigned SAT. They say that the new SAT will test the skills and knowledge that is necessary for college and career readiness. Many believe it is in response to losing market share to the ACT exam, but whatever the reason, students will find it a different experience when they sit for the SAT beginning in 2016. Not only have the math and critical reasoning potions of the exam changed, but the writing section is now being split into two parts. There will be a long multiple choice section and an optional essay section, which harkens back to the old SAT Subject test in writing.

The new SAT will look quite different. Not only will they introduce new sections to the exam, there will be a new answer sheet format, new types of questions, new timing and even new sub-scores presented. Similar to the ACT you say? The reason given by College Board for the sub-scores is to provide insight for test-takers and others, such as parents, teachers, counselors and admission officers.

The change that the students will celebrate the most however is the “no penalty for guessing” addition to the test. This allows students to give their best answers without fear of it hurting their score should they be wrong. Another change that students will welcome is the test length. The redesigned SAT will be three hours in length with the option of adding another 50 minutes for the no-longer-mandatory essay. The current SAT is three hours and 45 minutes with a required essay section.

The components tested on the current SAT are math, critical reading, writing and an essay portion. The new SAT will test math and evidence-based reading and writing which will include testing reading, writing and language. As mentioned before, the essay portion will now be optional. Where the current SAT emphasized general reasoning skills and vocabulary in a limited context, according to the College Board, the updated version will have a “continued emphasis on reasoning with a clearer, stronger focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings most important for college and career readiness and success.” Vocabulary will be tested in extended context along with “how word choice shapes meaning, tone and impact.”

The new SAT will also change its scoring but for those who remember the “old” SAT, it will seem familiar. Scoring will be on a scale of 400 to 1600, with the math and evidence-based reading and writing sections both scored at 200 to 800. There will be a total of seven sub-scores for test areas and the optional essay portion will be scored separately.

In summary, the redesigned SAT will theoretically be shorter (if students don’t opt for the essay), with questions more closely aligned to what is needed for success in college and career readiness, and without penalty for wrong answers. Scoring will be different yet familiar; a combination of the older version of the SAT scoring and the current sub-scoring on the ACT.