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 32 comments Comments (Shutterstock) (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.