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New SAT is high stakes for students, college board

Student reading a book at a desk in a library.
Photo courtesy of The Public Honors College

The new version of the SAT was administered for the first time on Saturday March 5, 2016 to over 450,000 students. The stakes are high for students hoping to be accepted to their preferred colleges, but arguably even higher for the College Board, the SAT’s developer. The College Board made significant revisions to the SAT in response to numerous criticisms from post-secondary institutions, students, and parents. The move is also seen as an attempt for the SAT to maintain dominance in an environment where more colleges are opting to become test-optional and the ACT is gaining more of the market share.

The College Board announced plans to revise the SAT on March 5, 2014. Two years later the revised SAT was administered with the following changes:

  • SAT is now evaluated on a 1600 point-scale (previously 2400 point-scale)
  • Writing section is now optional (separate score provided)
  • Narrower math section focusing on data analysis, algebra, advanced math
  • No penalty for guessing on multiple choice section (previously one-quarter deducted)
  • Emphasis on more relevant vocabulary

Additionally, the College Board partnered with the Khan Academy in providing free test preparation resources for the SAT. The initiative prepares students for the revised content of the test and serves to level the playing field between students who can afford personalized coaching and those who cannot.

Initial student responses to the revised SAT are positive so far. The College Board surveyed 8,000 students who wrote the SAT in March and found students prefer the new version by a margin of 6:1. Furthermore, nearly 60% of students indicate that the new SAT questions are relatively straightforward and easy to follow; one of the key goals the College Board was working to accomplish.

The overall success of the new changes to the SAT will not be evident for several months. However, given the initial positive response and relatively issue-free launch, the revisions are looking promising for the College Board.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.

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