Redesign of the SAT

The College Board announced a couple weeks ago that it will be redesigning the SAT. It’s something that, many say, has been long overdue. In the past, I’ve mentioned that there were plans to redesign the SAT to align itself with the Common Core standards, though if this has anything to do with that, I’m not sure. What I am sure of though is that in Spring 2016, students will be taking a different kind of test.

So what’ll be different about it?

  • Point scale will return to the 1,600 max.
  • Essay will be optional.
  • Will be 3 hours long, as opposed to 4.
  • Consist of 3 sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • Will require students to attempt at every question, but won’t penalize for wrong answers (much like the ACT)
  • Vocabulary used on the test will be simpler, more relevant to today’s language.
  • Math will focus on 3 areas:  problem solving and data analysis; the heart of algebra; and passport to advanced math.
  • Essay will focus on analysis of a source. The reading section will essentially cover the same thing.
  • Give students real world data to analyze.
  • Each exam will contain a passage from a historical document (not sure why this one is important).

The big thing here is that the College Board will be partnering up with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation material, available for anyone to use. If you’re not familiar with Khan Academy, it’s a free tutoring website that provides help with a seemingly limitless number of subjects. I used it when I was in Physics, which brought some sanity to where there’s was none.

Before, if you ever needed  tutoring for the SAT, you needed to fork out cash to learn about the tricks of the trade, so to speak. Most of the time, much of what you learned would have nothing to do with learning fundamental algebraic principles or proper sentence structure. It was about learning how to beat the test. For instance, if you knew to avoid the shortest or longest answer in a list of choices, you’d probably score higher that one who actually has a better understanding of the material that the test covers.

By making these changes, the College Board not only puts many SAT tutoring programs out of business, but it shifts the focus where, as research shows, “the mastery of fewer, more important things matters more than superficial coverage of many,” according to College Board President David Coleman. And I agree with this. Currently, our education system puts too much focus on creating this cookie-cutter model that we have now, trying to cover every topic imaginable instead of focusing on what’s really important. But the question is, will the new SAT shift the focus to where it needs to be, or will it only be slight change from where our education system is now?