For college-bound high school students, the SAT exam is a rite of passage. It is the assessment most widely used by colleges to determine a student’s readiness for college-level work. Preparation for the exam usually entails memorizing obscure vocabulary words and writing practice essays. This is changing. The College Board, who administers the test, announced earlier this year they are giving the exam a major overhaul and cite eight specific changes.
Goodbye obstreperous, recalcitrant misanthrope
Rather than requiring students to define rarely used words out of context, the new exam will focus on a student’s knowledge of words commonly used in college and career. Vocabulary will be presented within text, allowing students to use context clues to determine meaning, an essential literacy skill.
Much like requirements in the Common Core Standards, students must be able to interpret, synthesize and use facts presented in texts and graphics. The new reading test will present students with passages that will be followed by questions. Students must back up their answers with quotes from the passage. The writing and language test will have students editing for grammar, mechanics and accuracy. Many reading passages will be accompanied by charts or graphs, which students must interpret.
The essay is optional and different
Taking a cue from the ACT exam, another popular college admissions test, the timed writing portion will no longer be mandatory. Some colleges may require it, but many have found that timed essays are not useful in judging a student’s writing skills. The current essay provides a prompt and students must respond with their opinion. The new essay will require students to analyze a passage and write about how the author builds his or her argument. This is similar to the type of writing required in college.
Math is narrowed to three areas
Rather than demonstrate a cursory knowledge of a wide range of math skills, students will be tested in three essential areas: Data analysis and problem solving, the “heart” of algebra, and “passport” to advanced math. Students may narrow their study to these areas, which the College Board has determined are most useful for college work.
Readings are drawn from across content areas and genres
Students will be expected to analyze both fiction and nonfiction passages. Reading passages will be drawn from literature, science, history and social studies. The increased emphasis in nonfiction is in line with the Common Core Standards most states have adopted.
Texts and data are presented in real-world contexts
Students must analyze texts and data drawn from science, history and social studies. The exam will ask students to identify and correct inconsistencies between texts and their supporting data.
The founding fathers make an appearance
Each new SAT exam will include Founding Documents of America, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Federalists Papers. Famous works based on the Founding Documents, such as the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will also be among the reading passages.
There is no penalty for guessing
The current SAT exam deducts points for incorrect answers. This is not the case with the new exam. Students are encouraged to select the best answer.
The College Board will roll out the new exam in the spring of 2016. The Board is collaborating with Khan Academy to offer free preparation materials so that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.