The new 2016 SAT test – what are the changes?

What is the SAT and how is the SAT scored? Relocate takes a look at this US college admissions test from the College Board and the changes that have come into effect with the new 2016 SAT.

The SAT (previously an abbreviation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test but now generally referred to as the SAT) is owned, published and administered by the College Board, a not-for-profit education organisation in the United States that also offers the Advanced Placement (AP).

New 2016 SAT

There have been recent major revisions to the SAT test, which, the College Board claims, have been driven by the need to assess more closely the subjects that students learn in high school and the ones they will learn at college, rather than the previously isolated concepts created for an individual set of assessments. The new test came into effect in March 2016.However, while the format of the ACT has remained unchanged for decades, another big change brought in with the redesigned SAT is the way in which students can prepare for the test.Enlisting the help of the Khan Academy, the free online learning platform for school-age children, the College Board has developed interactive practice tools to create a tailored online learning experience to help students prepare for the test.The College Board and Khan Academy have seen more than 1.4 million unique users take up the Official SAT Practice online programme, which went live in 2015.
"We are very much committed to tearing down the inequities of high-priced preparation and making these world-class resources available to all kids, and particularly those kids who can't afford high-priced test prep," said Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment at the College Board.There are fewer multiple-choice questions on the new SAT and the penalty for wrong answers has been abolished. There are three tests: mathematics, reading (65 minutes), and writing and language (35 minutes). The mathematics paper is divided into two sections: no calculator (25 minutes) and with calculator (55 minutes). For multiple-choice sections, there are now four possible answers to choose from, whereas previously there were five.The reading test focuses on skills and knowledge at the heart of education. The test includes:
  • One passage from a classic or contemporary work from US or world literature
  • One or two passages from either a US founding document or a text in the global conversation they inspired (such as the US Constitution or a speech by Nelson Mandela)
  • A selection of economics, psychology, sociology or another social science
  • Two science passages that examine concepts and developments in Earth science, biology, chemistry or physics.

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The writing and language test asks students to read a passage, find mistakes and weaknesses, and fix them. Some passages are accompanied by informational graphics, such as tables, graphs and charts. Questions can ask students to:
  • Improve the way a passage develops information and ideas
  • Improve word choice to make a passage more precise or concise
  • Make editorial decisions to improve passages on history, social studies or science
  • Look at how a passage’s structure could be improved
  • Analyse sentence structure, usage and punctuation.
The maths tests allow students to show they can carry out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and strategically; and solve problems quickly by identifying and using the most efficient solutions. Most maths questions are multiple choice, apart from grid-in questions where students need to solve a problem and write the answer in the grid provided on the answer sheet.

Why take the SAT optional essay?

The optional, 50-minute essay requires students to analyse a 650–700 word document and is scored separately. Some colleges never take essay scores into consideration, others still require them. Both the ACT and SAT essays are now optional so students should see if any of the schools they are applying for require them to complete the essay.

SAT scores

The new SAT score is out of 1600 – 800 for maths and 800 for evidence-based reading and writing. The optional essay receives a separate score. With the redesigned SAT, data on the national average score are not yet available, but predictions suggest the average score will be around 1000. The new SAT provides subscores for every section of the test.There are no limits as to how many times students can retake the SAT and students are able to take the test on seven dates spread across the academic year. As with the ACT, it is common for students to first take their SAT in the spring of Grade 11, to allow them the chance to retake the test in the autumn of Grade 12 if they want to improve their score.The SAT tends to be more popular with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, colleges accept both ACT or SAT scores in equal measure, and so it is down to each student to decide which test to take.This article was originally published in September 2016.

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