College Board Revamps SAT; Eliminates Mandatory Essay, Changes Vocabulary Words

SAT
Students who take the SAT in spring 2006 will be taking a different exam. Among other things, the essay section is now optional and the obscure vocabulary words have been cut.

The SAT is changing, again. The college admission exam apparently does not adequately focus on the skills students learn in high school, the College Board stated Wednesday, so the test will go back to the 1600 scale, eliminate the obligatory essays, cut the ambiguous vocabulary words and put an end to penalizing guessing wrong, the New York Times reported. Studies have shown the test is increasingly disregarded by admissions offices, and the College Board's new president is doing what he can to change that.

David Coleman, College Board's president, actually criticized his own test and its rival, the ACT, as he said both exams “have become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” But changing the test around isn’t the only modification. Low-income students will get fee waivers and they will also be allowed to apply to four colleges at no charge.

For high school students who may panic that the test they have studied extensively for is about to change, there’s no need to worry. The alterations won’t kick in until the spring of 2016.

“It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country,” Coleman said. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”

Here is the complete breakdown of the key changes:

--The guessing penalty, where students used to get deductions for incorrect answers, will be omitted.

--The essay, which became required in 2005, will now be optional. For those who want to write the essay, they will be asked to read a passage and then create an argument based off evidence, reasoning and stylistic elements.

--Instead of obscure “SAT words” like “depreciatory,” students will be asked to know words that will be common in college classes like “synthesis” and “empirical.”

--The scoring will go back to the old 1600-point scale. Both reading and math will have a top score of 800 and then the essay will have a separate score.

--Each test will include a reading passage from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” like the Declaration of Independence, or from of an important text like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

--Though there won’t be a science section, there will be a reading passage on a science topic.

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