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College Board redesigns the SAT

Video by Washington Post

One of the most frequently taken college admission exams in America has just undergone a significant makeover. The College Board, which administers the SAT, announced Wednesday the first major changes to the test since 2005.

The changes, which will not take effect until 2016, include the removals of mandatory essays, penalties for incorrect answer and obscure vocabulary words.

The redesign intends to better represent what students study in high school, the College Board says, and also show the mastery of skills and evidence-based thinking expected for success in college and careers. The new test, for example, might ask students to justify a chosen answer with supporting evidence or a quote from a text.

Additional changes include:

  • Math questions will now focus on linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.
  • The overall scoring will return to the original 1600 scale, with 800 being the top score in both reading and math. The now optional essay will receive a separate score.
  • The new test will be available by paper and computer.

The SAT test has lost ground to rival test, the ACT, in recent years, and a number of colleges and universities have stopped requiring either college admissions test when students apply. A recent study has also found a student’s grades in high school are a better predictor of college success than standardized tests. College Board president David Coleman, in an story in The New York Times, acknowledged that finding, and the fact that many students are anxious about taking these standardized tests.

The national nonprofit advocacy group FairTest were quick to criticize the revamped SAT. Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer said that the revision fails to address “historic weaknesses” and may lead more universities to drop standardized test scores as admission requirements.

Schaeffer, however, did offer cautious praise of the College Board’s decision to partner with nonprofit Khan Academy to create and offer free test preparation courses, in addition to aiding low-income students taking the exam with four fee waivers.

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