Eight Structural Changes Coming to The New SAT in 2016

Change I: Overall, the new SAT has fewer, but more challenging questions.

Reason: The College Board believes that the speed with which one can answer a question is less important than how one applies reasoning, logic and analysis to solving a problem or examining a situation. Often, the critical skill needed to solve an SAT question is the ability to analyze the differences between answer choices.

Change II: Grading has returned to a 400 to 1600 scale, composed of a Math score and a Writing and Language score, each on a scale of 200 to 800.

Reason: The 600 to 2400 was never fully adopted by colleges and universities. Some continued to only consider Math and Reading scores, while others used the Writing score as well.

Change III: While the new SAT still tests students on reading, writing and math, it does so in a manner wholly consistent with the Common Core; many questions cross lines between subjects. For example, the reading section contains at least one passage that requires students to interpret data from graphs or charts. The math section contains at least one extended reasoning question. The Writing and Language section contains passages covering science and social studies.

Reason: The new SAT is designed to measure “real-world skills.” The College Board believes that these “blended” questions are closer to situations that students will encounter in college and careers than are those found in single subject question banks or worksheets. So one must become accustomed to thinking mathematically, for example, while reading about history or science, or about grammar while reading a science passage, or about a writer’s intention in using a particular word or phrase.

Change IV: The Essay is now optional and is 50 minutes long.

Reason: This change is designed to provide high aspiring students (such as those who take AP classes) with another way to distinguish themselves. The new essay is similar to AP and GRE essays in that it requires students to articulate complex thoughts clearly and effectively, support their ideas with logical examples and reasons, evaluate authors’ claims and supporting evidence, create a well-focused, coherent discussion, all while applying elements of standard written English.

Change V: Wrong answers no longer incur a guessing penalty.

Reason: Nothing changes here, except perception. This is the College Board’s concession to its rival, the ACT. The guessing penalty on SAT never really made much of a difference, since it was only ¼ point and there were four wrong answer choices to every one correct answer. So, random guessing was designed to result in an overall loss of zero points. This change is more to remove the perception that the SAT is tricky while the ACT is academic.

Change VI: The Math test is 80 minutes in duration. It contains a calculator section with 37 questions and a non-calculator section with 20 questions. It contains one “Extended Reasoning” question and 12 “Grid-In” or “Student Produced Response” questions.

Reason: The College Board feels that calculator use may provide some students, particularly those able to program their calculators, with an unfair advantage. Accordingly, the company believes that having a no-calculator section makes it easier to assess students’ actual fluency in math and understanding of math concepts. This change rewards those with well-learned technique and number-sense and those who have internalized memorized formulas, geometric patterns, graphical patterns (e.g. parabolas) and basic transformations (e.g. fractions to decimals).

Change VII: The SAT Reading Test is 65 minutes in duration. It contains 52 questions based on four single passages and one paired set of passages each containing 500-750 words.

Reason: Fewer questions means that students will be able to spend more time per question. This change makes the test more analytical in nature, and less based on reading speed.  This is a crucial difference between the ACT and the New SAT.

Change VIII: The Writing and Language Test is 35 minutes in duration and contains four passages, each containing 400 to 450 words. Each passage is accompanied by 11 questions, for a total of 44 questions.

Reason: This change is a tip of the hat to the ACT, whose ACT English Test is virtually identical to this section of the SAT. Further, this change reflects the College Board’s desire to have questions be more passage based than sentence based.

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