Upcoming Changes in the SAT

Note: A more updated account of the SAT changes can be found here.

You may have your grievances with the SAT, just as university professors may have theirs. Nearly everyone has a suggestion or two for the College Board when it comes to their infamous test. The College Board evidently listened to someone (perhaps even you), as they have recently announced several major revisions to the SAT that should take effect in 2016.

It should be noted that the current SAT format will not change. There will still be Writing, Mathematics, and Critical Reading sections. However, the College Board hopes to make the test content more relevant to the material that students learn in their high school classes – and closer to the material that they’ll need to understand in order to do well in college. Thus, the College Board also intends to make the test more practical.

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There are some very specific modifications that could affect your SAT preparation – but first, it’s critical to understand the rationale behind these changes. The SAT is designed to be the great equalizer in college admissions and to accurately predict students’ success in higher education. However, the College Board President, David Coleman, recently acknowledged that the SAT isn’t doing the best it can to achieve these goals. Some experts say that high school grades are still a better predictor of future academic success than SAT scores. The proposed changes to the SAT are intended to bridge this gap and make SAT scores a more accurate measure of how well students will perform at the college level.

Critical Reading

Perhaps one of the largest problems with the current version of the SAT is the seemingly arbitrary vocabulary words that are used on the test. The College Board has heard this feedback, so students might not have to memorize these arcane terms anymore. According to the proposed changes, these words will be replaced with vocabulary that you’d be far more likely to actually use in college and in everyday life. If you plan to take the test in 2016, ensure you locate and understand this new set of vocabulary words.

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The SAT Mathematics changes are not as significant as the Critical Reading modifications. However, the College Board is attempting to recognize and pinpoint the equations and types of thinking that truly matter in college courses. Coleman specifically mentioned that proportional reasoning, linear equations, and linear functions are some of the question types that determine if students can succeed at the college level. Coleman also noted that pupils should be able to do more than just pick the correct answer. He suggested that they should be able to explain their mathematical reasoning as well. This strongly indicates that future SAT tests may have more of these question types and less of the multiple-choice format.


In addition to multiple-choice questions devoted to mechanics, the infamous essay is also found in this section. It is the essay that may undergo the largest revision on the new SAT. Right now, it’s designed to measure how well you can articulate an argument and string together cohesive thoughts – but it doesn’t take off many points for inaccurate statements staging as facts. So, it essentially allows students to fabricate facts to better support an argument. Coleman is planning to change this and to require students to solely use factual evidence to support arguments in their essays.

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