Capstone College and Career Advising

SAT Undergoes Substantial Revisions

March 17th, 2014 by

College Board president David Coleman announced substantial changes to the SAT. College Board, the organization that administers the college entrance test, recently announced its changes, which include an optional essay section and a reduced math section. This is the second design overhaul in the test's 88-year history, the last one being in 2005. In addition to performing a complete revision of the test's content and structure, the College Board is partnering with educational services non-profit Khan Academy to offer free test preparation services to anyone with Internet access. These efforts are meant to address the performance gap between high- and low-income students. A common criticism of the SAT tests is that scores are often more closely linked to income than aptitude, as students from high-income families are able to afford the expensive prep courses and materials. In addition to the performance gap, the redesign is aimed at highlighting students' learning over the entirety of their school career, not just the cramming and studying they were able to do the night before the exam.

Key Changes
The new SAT will return to a top score of 1600, after being changed to 2400 in 2005. Students aiming for that perfect score will be confronted with several different challenges than those faced by students before them. The first major change is a complete revamping of the math section. Instead of drawing from the breadth of math topics covered in high school, the new SAT mathematics section will highlight fewer topics that are more relevant to college readiness and career applications. While there will be fewer topic areas covered, the test will focus in on each of these topics with greater depth. Along with this update, there will be a no-calculator section of the new test that assesses students' fluency with mathematical concepts.

The verbal section of the SAT is also seeing substantial changes. Students will no longer be tested on their familiarity with obscure vocabulary words, but rather, those words that are widely used in college and career contexts. In addition, students will be asked to cite the evidence for their answers by locating the specific portions of text from which they arrived at their conclusion. Perhaps the greatest change will affect the writing portion, which will now be completely optional. Students that choose to take the essay portion of the test will have about twice as long to construct their arguments than they previously had, allowing for a more in-depth analysis as well as time to edit their work. One of the major complaints of the previous SAT structure was that the 25 minutes allotted to students to write their essay was not enough time to produce anything of substance. As far as college preparedness goes, 25 minutes of textual analysis was not sufficient for measuring a student's potential success. Source material for writing prompts and reading comprehension questions will also be restructured to include more widely recognized documents. While the current test draws sources from somewhat obscure places, the new SAT will focus on texts from America's Founding Fathers or texts that are widely read and analyzed, such as "The Gettysburg Address" or Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

Intended Consequences
The SAT has been consistently losing ground to its rival college entrance exam, the ACT. Criticisms of the SAT range from the test unfairly benefiting high-income students to the material not accurately reflecting a student's college preparedness. As a result, about 800 colleges no longer require the submission of SAT scores to be accepted. The College Board's latest revisions have attempted to address these issues in an effort to regain its footing as the first choice in college entrance examinations.