pic of sat math section, from flickr user butz.2013 (cc license)

image by flickr user Butz.2013 (cc license)

 

If you’ve followed the news this week, you probably heard that the SAT is a-changing. While these changes won’t hit until 2016, the ‘changes’ that the SAT will undergo is really more of an overhaul. Here’s a brief summary:

  • The score will be out of 1600 again.
  • Wrong answers will no longer be penalized; guess away!
  • The essay is now an optional, separately scored part of the test.
  • Essay section time will be doubled and will now ask students to complete an analysis of evidence.
  • Elimination of little used, little known vocabulary.
  • Focus on words that college students will often use (e.g., empirical, synthesis).
  • Fewer mathematics topics.
  • More predictable reading passage topics. One passage will be on a “Founding Document” (e.g., the Declaration of Independence) or a “Great Global Conversation” (e.g., MLK, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”). Other passages will be from various disciplines and ask for analysis in a style used by that discipline.
  • Expect more data-focused questions on the SAT, including identifying inconsistencies.
  • Print and digital formats for the test.
  • CollegeBoard will work with Khan Academy for free test prep.
  • Four college application fee waivers for income-eligible students. 

 

Truly, that’s a significant amount of change. Our favorite changes are fourfold:

 

First, the elimination of the mandatory, score-included essay. The SAT is not designed as a measure of what you know; it’s designed as a predictor of college success. The essay section (instituted in 2005) has not been a strong predictor of college success. The essay now is optional and will focus on evidence analysis, both of which College Parents of America support until the essay is better proven as a predictor of college success.

 

Second, the refocusing on actual use instead of esoteric knowledge. Both the data-driven questions and the elimination of little used vocabulary should not only make for a more accessible exam that’s more intuitive to for student test preparation, but should also make for a test that better measures how students will perform in college classrooms.

 

Third, CollegeBoard’s choice to partner with the incredibly useful Khan Academy to provide free online test preparation is a wonderful idea. Given that some families will spend in excess of $2,000 on test prep while other families most certainly could not afford to do so, this change provides the possibility of a universally accessible, quality test preparation at the perfect cost of internet access and nothing else. 

 

Fourth, waiving application fees to four schools for income-eligible students might get overlooked, but there’s evidence that these types of fees can discourage talented but income-strapped students from pursuing their college dreams. College Parents of America wholeheartedly endorses such waivers, as we believe that college should be equally accessible to all.

 

Have a different opinion of the SAT changes or wish that something else would have been included in the changes? Let us know in the comments below.

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