U.S. Navy

Major Changes To SAT Announced For 2016

College Board, the organization behind the test, announced major changes, including more relevant vocabulary and the end of the mandatory essay.

By Steven Sparkman | March 5, 2014

Every year, more than a million and a half high school students get up early on a Saturday morning, grab a calculator and a No. 2 pencil, and head off to battle for their future.

"The SAT is the nation's most widely used college entrance exam."

Yes, the SAT, the nearly four-hour reading, writing and math test, is a staple of the college application process. (Via College Board)

But students set to take the SAT in 2016 or later will see a very different test.

Wednesday, David Coleman, the president of College Board, the organization behind the test, announced the first major change to the SAT since 2005.

The New York Times quotes Coleman saying his organization's own test, plus its rival the ACT, "have become disconnected from the work of our high schools" and need to be revamped.

Among the major changes: Archaic vocabulary words will be replaced by words students might actually encounter in college, the test will go back to the 1600-point scale it used before 2005, there will be no penalty for guessing, and the math and reading portions will be redesigned to focus more on reasoning.

Standardized tests like the SAT have taken a lot of heat in the past decade. Critics say they don't predict anything other than the student's ability to take the test, and nearly a third of colleges and universities don't even require test scores from applicants anymore.

"At Pitzer, we basically did a study, and what we found was that there was no direct correlation between academic success on our campus and the SAT." (Via CBS)

In fact, studies like this one released last month have found looking at a student's performance in high school is a much better way to predict college success than any standardized test. (Via National Association for College Admission Counseling)

And critics like the president of Wake Forest University have long complained the SAT discriminates against low-income students who are less able to afford expensive test preparation. (Via The Washington Post)

Coleman says that's why the revamped test isn't the only big change coming for the SAT.

He announced College Board will begin to waive the testing fees for low-income students, and starting in 2015, the organization will partner with the acclaimed online-learning site Khan Academy to offer free prep courses for the new test.

We'll have to wait and see whether the changes make the SAT more attractive to college admissions offices. The test has lost ground to its rival, the ACT, in recent years, with test prep companies saying many students find the latter less confusing.

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