Big Changes In Store for the SAT

Get ready. The SAT is going to change in significant ways.

The new SAT will probably end up looking more like the ACT.

The changes that David Coleman, the College Board’s president, announced today sure look like the College Board is moving the SAT away from being an aptitude test (the “A” in SAT used to stand for aptitude) and closer to an exam that measures the sort of knowledge that teenagers should know to be successful in college.

If your children are high school sophomores or older, you can take a deep breath, these changes shouldn’t impact them. That’s because students won’t begin taking the new SAT until the spring of 2016. The College Board, however, is going to give students, schools and test-prep firms plenty of time to get ready for the changes by releasing the complete specifications of pencil singlethe overhauled exam on April 16.

You can learn more about what the new test will focus on by heading over to the College Board’s new website:  Delivering Opportunity.

What I found encouraging today was Coleman’s other big announcement that the College Board has entered into a partnership with the Kahn Academy to develop a state-of-the-art test-prep system for any students who want to tackle the SAT. This SAT program will be free.

Sal Kahn, the creator of the Kahn Academy, (see photo) who was present for the announcement, said that the test-prep program will go well beyond providing tips to test takers. The program will identify student deficiencies and teach them the fundamentals, of say, fractions or basic algebra, when needed.

The College Board plans to train tutors, counselors and mentors on how teenagers can take full advantage of the Kahn Academy resources. Coleman noted that the College Board has never entrusted its name to an outside organization until now.

While Coleman didn’t acknowledge that wealthier students have an advantage when taking the test (test results are highly correlated with income), he did say this:

“We need to get rid of the sense of mystery and dismantle the advantage that people perceive. If there are no more secrets, it’s very hard to pay for them.”sal

Here are some of the upcoming changes to the SAT that I noted in a post that I wrote today for CBS News:

  • Questions on the test will be grounded in the real world and relate directly to the kind of work that students will do in college and in their careers.
  • The exam will return to being scored on a 1,600-point scale, rather than 2,400 points.
  • The two sections in the 1,600-point system will be math and “evidence-based reading and writing.”
  • Calculators will be prohibited in part of the math section of the SAT to measure a student’s number sense.
  • The math section will narrow its focus to math that students absolutely need to know, which Coleman described as “problem solving and data analysis,” “the heart of algebra” and the “passport to advanced math.” He didn’t really explain what that meant.
  • The essay portion of the test will be optional and scored separately.
  • The exam will last three hours with an additional 50 minutes for the optional essay.
  • In every test, students also will encounter an excerpt from one of America’s founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution or texts that these documents have spurred about freedom, justice and human dignity.
  • Students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers.
  • The sentence-completion questions will disappear.
  • The obscure vocabulary words, which were long a feature of the SAT, will be replaced with more relevant words that can have different meanings depending on their uses. Coleman noted that vocabulary flashcards will no longer be necessary in studying for the exam.

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