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No Mandatory Essay: SAT Overhauling Test
Top score returns to 1,600 in 2 years
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2014 2:33 PM CST

(Newser) – Big changes are coming for the SAT in two years, reports the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Some of the major ones announced by the College Board:

  • Essay optional: The mandatory essay introduced in 2005 will be eliminated. Among other things, critics say students couldn't knock out anything of worth within its 25-minute time limit. An optional essay will remain but with a different format.
  • Scoring: The top score will once again be 1,600, instead of the 2,400-mark also established nine years ago.
  • Obscure words: The College Board promises to ditch "flashcard" vocabulary words and focus on those used in, well, the real world. The Post browses an official study guide and picks out “punctilious,” “phlegmatic,” and “occlusion” as potential offenders.
  • No penalties: Students will no longer lose a quarter-point for incorrect multiple-choice answers.
  • Computers: Students will have the option of taking the test on a computer, reports AP.
  • Math: The section will draw questions from fewer areas, ones deemed most relevant to college, such as algebra.
  • Free help: The College Board says it will offer free test-preparation help online, and it took particular aim at the huge tutoring industry that has sprung up around the SAT.

“The College Board cannot stand by while some test-prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching,” says College Board chief David Coleman. “If we believe that assessment must be a force for equity and excellence, it’s time to shake things up.” The test has come under fire for being biased toward richer students (in part because of those test-prep tutors) and not such a great predictor of college success.

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Carol Williams
Mar 6, 2014 6:13 AM CST
They just hope this will stop the continued downward spiral of our countries test scores compared to others. Our students will still be dumber than theirs though...
Mar 5, 2014 11:32 PM CST
On the topic of essays: Writing was impossible for my first husband, and it isn't my strong suit either. He's a fine artist, and I'm a retired interior designer/project manager. Spatial relationships, puzzles and mechanical problems are my bailiwick. Don't expect impeccable writing from me, and I won't expect high-end design from you.
Mar 5, 2014 9:34 PM CST
There are some very bitter people in these comments, me included probably. Thing is people, they know what they're doing, and most of us high school students know what's going on. Many of you have a very stereotypical view of high schoolers being idiots, but you seem to be relying on The Middle's interpretation of a teenager too much. Do some research and you'll see why this works.