7 Major Changes to the New SAT
On March 5th, 2014, David Coleman, President of the College Board, announced plans to substantially revise the SAT. The new specifications were released in April of 2014, and the format, scoring, and test items have all undergone change.
The test was revised to be more representative of what students study in high school, and should assess more directly the skills most relevant to college and career readiness.
With the first administration of the new SAT approaching on March 5th, let’s review the most significant changes to the test so students know what to expect.
1) Structure and Testing Time
The new SAT is comprised of two sections, 154 total questions, and an optional essay:
- Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
- Essay (optional)
The previous test was comprised of three sections, 170 total questions, and a required essay:
- Critical Reading
- Essay (required)
The new test is 3 hours plus an additional 50 minutes for the optional essay. The previous version, which included the mandatory essay, was 3 hours and 45 minutes long.
- Vocabulary: The new SAT will no longer test students on obscure vocabulary words that they’ve never heard of and likely will never use in the real world. Instead, the exam will focus on more widely-known, common words that students will need to understand based on different contexts
- Evidence-Based Reading: Reading passages will be drawn more from social studies texts high school students read and will be focused on evidence
- Graphs and Charts: The new test will also ask students to infer information from graphs and charts, especially in the reading section
- Math: Math items will be better aligned with mathematics high school students study. Students will be tested more on problem solving and algebraic equations while seeing fewer geometry questions
The SAT will return to the original scoring scale of 1600, comprised of 800 for both the math and evidence-based reading and writing sections. In 2005, the exam had shifted to a 2400 scale.
The essay is scored separately, and a student can achieve a perfect score of 1600 without taking the essay.
Speaking of the essay….
The essay portion of the test is now optional and will be offered at the end of the exam rather than the beginning. Students will also now have 50 minutes to complete the essay as opposed to 25 minutes on the previous version.
Additionally, the type of written analysis required of the students has changed. Students are no longer being asked to agree or disagree with a statement or an author’s point, but rather to analyze the way in which the author makes that point and how “persuasive” he or she is in doing so.
The essay is graded on three dimensions: reading, analysis, and writing skills. Each dimension is scored from 2 to 8 points, and essay results are reported separately.
Students and families should check with specific universities to see if the essay is required.
5) Guessing Penalty
The guessing penalty for incorrect answers has been eliminated. Students can feel more comfortable to attempt to problem solve even the most challenging items without fear of being penalized for a wrong answer.
It is in a student’s best interest to guess on unanswered questions, even if it means filling in random answer choices.
Previously, a student lost ¼ of a point for every incorrect answer.
6) Multiple-choice Options
The number of options on multiple-choice questions will decrease from five to four. The chances of guessing correctly will increase and students won’t have to spend as much time reviewing the answer choices.
Please note that the math section includes 13 student-produced response problems that are not impacted by this change.
The use of calculators will be limited to certain math questions. Previously, students were able to use calculators on the entire math section.
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If you have any questions on the new SAT or are wondering whether the SAT or ACT is right for your student, reach out to us directly at the location nearest to you and we will be happy to help!