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How Will The SAT Change Next Year?

Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D
02/12/2015

Last year, the College Board announced that it will be redesigning the SAT for Spring 2016. Current sophomores and their parents should research the new test to make an informed decision with regard to standardized testing. Will you still take the current SAT in 2015, or the new SAT in 2016? Or should you consider the ACT instead? Note: The redesigned PSAT launches in October 2015 – students should take this test to practice for the new SAT.

In general, the SAT is a college admissions reasoning test that assesses students’ knowledge and determines how well students can apply that knowledge. The current exam contains sections in Math, Critical Reading and Writing — while the newly designed SAT will only have two sections (Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math), plus an optional Essay section.

How else does the new SAT differ from the current SAT?

• Time. The current SAT is three hours and 45 minutes long, but the new version will be only three hours (plus an optional 50 minute essay). If you are considering applying to highly selective institutions, plan to write the essay! The most selective schools almost always require a writing portion – it’s best to err on the side of caution and write the essay. If you are unsure whether the schools you’ll be applying to will require the essay, contact them to find out or visit their admissions website starting this summer.

• Content. As mentioned above, the SAT is scaling back from three sections, totaling 2400 points, to two sections, totaling 1600. What you might not know is that most colleges today only use the Math and Critical Reading sections (out of 1600) anyway; typically, only selective institutions consider the Writing score.

• Features. The questions will still be designed to focus on reasoning, but the College Board expects its new test will more accurately reflect skills geared towards college preparedness and success. Additionally, the context surrounding words – rather than a memorized list of vocabulary definitions – will be emphasized. Finally, the scoring will favor the student; that is, points will be awarded for correct answers but no deductions will be taken for incorrect answers.

• Essay. The essay will be optional and offered only at the end of the exam – rather than required and at the beginning. If you are not writing the essay, then you are done and free to leave after you’ve completed the EBRW and Math sections. Those who write the essay will have 50 minutes, rather than 25 minutes, to gather their thoughts and arguments to analyze a given text.

Remember that colleges will accept the old SAT, the new SAT and the ACT. Many colleges will actually prefer that Class of 2017 students take the redesigned SAT rather than the current SAT but, as always, check with each college to see which exams will be acceptable.

All students taking the new SAT in Spring 2016 will be in the same position – and colleges understand this. In fact, colleges tend to be forgiving with students’ scores whenever a new exam is introduced. Instead of fearing change, embrace it: you never know, your SAT score – in 2016 – might go up.

(Stephen has 10+ years of admissions experience at Cornell University and Princeton University. He is a founder of AcceptU, an admissions counseling group comprised entirely of former admissions officers from highly selective colleges and universities. For questions or to learn more about AcceptU, contact Stephen (stephen@acceptu.com, 617-424-0700) or visit www.AcceptU.com. )

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