Major changes coming to SAT exam

College Board announces partnership with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials online

Khan Academy

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Hannah McGee / Legacy Media

College Board announced sweeping changes to the SAT exam set to be implemented Spring 2016. The changes are expected to fix the disconnect between what high school students learn in the classroom and what they are tested on.

The SAT exam will again see changes to its test material and scoring methods. College Board President and CEO David Coleman publicized the changes March 5. The new SAT is set to be released in Spring 2016 along with Khan Academy partnership to offer free test preparation materials online. The change comes less than 10 years after the last major SAT overhaul.

“Admissions officers and counselors have said they find the data from admissions exams useful, but are concerned that these exams have become disconnected from the work of high school classrooms and surround by costly test preparation,” Coleman said. “No longer will it be good enough to focus on tricks and trying to eliminate answer choices. We are not interested in students just picking an answer, but justifying their answers.”

Changes to the reading and writing sections include the need for students to prove and cite their answers. These tests will also no longer require memorization of difficult vocabulary, but rather words that students are likely to use such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”

“I think it is important that they still incorporate higher vocabulary,” senior Sushmitha Ram said. “Students still need to know this for English and knowing vocabulary in every field is critical for everyone’s life.”

The math section will now have a stronger focus on data analysis and real-world problem solving. Sophomore David Li criticizes these changes, thinking they will make the test much easier and obsolete.

“I don’t like the fact that it is going to be a lot harder to differentiate who actually gets a better score,” he said. “If they make everything easier, then the scores are going to have less of a difference between those who actually know it and those who don’t.”

The writing section will now be optional, reverting the 2400 scale back to 1600 that only includes the reading and math sections. Essays are will be scored separately from the test, and the prompt will ask students to analyze a passage based on how the author made an argument, used evidence and styled ideas.

“I think there needs to be a required writing part because that is such an important skill for students to have,” Ram said. “Even though the SAT writing is not the same type of writing that most teachers encourage, I think it is still important to make it required.”

The implementation date leaves much grey area for current sophomores, as they will be the year affected by the change in exams. College Board has yet to comment on whether both tests will be available to these students.

“I’m going to take both versions of the test if I’m able to,” Li said. “That way I’ll have both scores ready if colleges want to see them. I don’t think it will really affect my scores if they really have made the test easier.”