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New SAT coming in spring 2016

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The College Board has just announced major changes to the SAT coming in spring 2016. So no worries if you're taking the test on Saturday...this doesn't affect you! But if you're a high school freshman likely to take the test in spring of your junior year, here's a bit of what you might expect.

  1. The essay will become optional, and will require students to analyze a passage rather then argue a point. Both analysis and writing will be scored.
  2. The changes to the reading section are vague at this point, but there appears to be some free response elements requiring students to justify their answers with citations from a passage.
  3. The overall scoring will revert to a 1600 scale. The writing section will be scored separately.
  4. Wrong answers will no longer be subject to a 1/4 point penalty, allowing random guessing.
  5. The vocabulary elements will change, but it's unclear in exactly what way. The College Board wants to emphasize words like "synthesis" and "empirical" over more esoteric/obscure words.
  6. "Founding Documents" and "Greal Global Conversation" passages will be included on every test (i.e. Declaration of Independence, "I Have a Dream"), presumably on both the reading and writing sections.
  7. Changes to the math section are also vague, but appear to reduce the body of math on which students might be tested. Math questions will also be "less abstract" and focused on how to use math in science, social studies, etc. Calculator use will now be allowed on only part of the math test.
  8. Computer versions of the test will become available, though the standard paper and pencil version is not being eliminated. Hopefully this means students will be able to schedule testing by computer during the summer!

Overall, my take is that the SAT is going to be an easier test, and that it is clearly making some changes based on the growing popularity of the ACT. I wonder if the SAT is actually tolling its own death-knell by shifting to an easier product that's less useful to colleges. But on the other hand, maybe a lower than average score will more clearly signal to colleges that a student is not ready for college level work. I guess it remains to be seen!

My final comment rests with the College Board's touting of a partnership with Khan Academy to provide free test prep videos. From one perspective, this is far from earth shattering since Khan Academy has provided free SAT prep videos for years based on the Official SAT Study Guide (aka the Blue Book). But thinking about the bigger picture, the College Board is tacitly admitting that test prep is important. For years, the CB posited that all you needed to prepare for the SAT was your standard high school coursework. Of course, that wasn't true, and it's interesting to see the CB state as much.

More to come when I have specifics...

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