The New SAT

If one can count on nothing else, one can count on change.  That has certainly held  true for standardized testing over the decades as many in academia will recall the recentering of scores in 1995, the rebrandsating of the “verbal” section as “critical reading” and the addition of the “writing” section in 2005.  This past week the College Board announced the newest iteration of the SAT which will incorporate changes that have been in discussion for most of the last several years.

Students will now be able to take the SAT test on a computer, or by making use of a paper based exam.  The scoring will revert to the old 1,600-point scale, from 2,400, inclusive of top scores of 800 on math and 800 on what will be called “evidence-based reading and writing.” Reading passages will include historical documents and the current “writing” section will become optional presenting an entirely separate score.  As for the current vocabulary challenges, some have used words like “arcane” and “rarefied” to describe the words students are expected to recognize with confidence.  The new test format will shift the focus to words that are more commonly found in college coursework, like “empirical” and “synthesis.”  The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking and the use of a calculator will no longer be permitted on some sections.  Lastly, test takers will no longer face the one quarter point penalty here-to-fore connected with incorrect answers, making educated guessing a comfortable mode of operation for students facing test time constraints or knowledge deficiencies.

If you’ve been following web news over the course of the past week you couldn’t possibly have missed a critique of the proposed SAT changes and the philosophical reasoning behind each of them.  The most informative piece, in my opinion, was an article entitled, “The Story Behind the Overhaul,” by Todd Balf, published by the  New York Times on March 6th.

We expect that students from the class of 2017 (currently in 9th grade) will be those to first experience these changes.  If you have any questions about the College Board’s decisions, how the test has evolved over time and how the upcoming changes may affect your child, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Jennifer Scott, Senior Associate Director of College Counseling,
Norfolk Academy
Winter, 2014