College Board, creator of the SAT, rocked the world of college admissions with its recent announcement of major changes in store for the 2016 SAT.
According to College Board officials, the new SAT will be a more accurate assessment of college readiness, reflecting what is taught in today’s high school classrooms.
Here are some of the changes in the redesigned SAT:
1. Vocabulary. The buzzword for the new SAT vocabulary is “relevant.” No longer will students shudder at the thought of trying to define “punctilious” and “phlegmatic” because these obscure words will be replaced with words like “synthesis” and “empirical” – words that are frequently used in the classroom and in the workplace.
2. No penalty for wrong answers. The one-quarter point penalty for each incorrect response is going the way of analogies (eliminated in 2005) and antonyms (eliminated in 1994). The penalty discouraged guessing. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT. Students stronger at strategically eliminating incorrect answer choices have tended to score higher on the SAT.
3. No more required essay. Since 2005, the first part of the SAT presented the student with an essay prompt that required them to plan, write and edit a persuasive essay that included multiple points of evidence, all in just 25 minutes. In the new SAT, students will read a passage and be asked to explain how the author builds an argument by supporting their claims with evidence from the passage.
The rationale is that this exercise more closely reflects an actual college-level assignment. The essay prompt will be shared in advance and remain constant, but the source material will change. In the new SAT, the essay will be optional, again similar to the ACT. Students who choose to write the essay will have 50 minutes to analyze evidence and demonstrate their abilities to craft an argument.
4. Back to a perfect 1,600 score. The current SAT has three sections: Math, Critical Reading and Writing, each offering a scale of 200-800 points with a 2,400 score maximum. The new SAT will return to two sections. The Writing and Critical Reading sections will be merged into a new section called “Evidence-based Reading and Writing.”
5. Math changes as well. Three math areas will be the focus: “Problem Solving and Data Analysis,” “the Heart of Algebra” and “Passport to Advanced Math.”
This is how College Board explains each one: “Problem Solving and Data Analysis is about being quantitatively literate. It includes using ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science and career contexts. The Heart of Algebra focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems, which helps students develop key powers of abstraction. Passport to Advanced Math focuses on the student’s familiarity with more complex equations and the manipulation they require.”
Really? Are we all clear now?!
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website at www.CollegeAdmissions Strategies.com.