New SAT Coming in 2016: What Will Change?

New SATToday the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, announced sweeping changes to the standardized exam that will launch in the spring of 2016. As College Board president David Coleman promised last year when he announced that a new SAT was coming, the changes are meant to make the SAT less “coachable” and to make it more relevant to what is taught in high school classrooms. The changes also make the SAT much more like the ACT (the SAT’s chief competitor), although you won’t see any mention of that in the College Board’s publicity announcements for the new SAT.

In the College Board’s own words, “The redesigned SAT will focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success. The exam will reflect the best of classroom work.”

The changes coming to the new SAT include:

  • The new SAT will still be offered as a paper-and-pencil test, but will also be made available as a computer-based test “at selected locations”
  • Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers
  • The new SAT will have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
  • The now-mandatory essay will become optional. While the current essay rewards students for making blatantly false assertions, the new one will require them to read a written passage and analyze how it constructs arguments and use evidence to make a point.
  • The old 1600 scaling score will return, and will be the sum of scores on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. The essay will be scored separately.
  • The scope of the Math section will be narrowed to focus on three main areas: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. According to the College Board, “Current research shows that these areas most contribute to readiness for college and career training.”
  • “SAT words” will be a thing of the past, according to the College Board. The new SAT will still test students’ command of vocabulary, but “will engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom.”
  • Reading prompts will come from “Founding Documents or a text from the ongoing Great Global Conversation about freedom, justice, and human dignity.” (This sounds like they’re making the test even more coachable, but we’ll cover this in another article.)

Another big announcement came today: The College Board and Khan Academy, the online learning platform, will also release a free online SAT prep course that ” will have access to an artificially intelligent learning experience that diagnoses weaknesses and charts in a step-by-step path to improvement,” according to TechCrunch. This new collaboration will launch in the spring of 2015, a year before the new SAT is scheduled to launch.

As more news emerges we will continue to post updates on the redesigned SAT. We’ve also added a new page to compare the old and new SAT… Check back often!

By Scott Shrum, who took the SAT back when it was originally on a 1,600-point scale.