By 2016, the SAT will drop the required essay, bringing a perfect score back to 1600, simplify vocabulary, cover fewer math topics and more closely resemble what students learn in high school, College Board has announced. Students won’t lose quarter points for wrong answers on multiple-choice questions, a policy designed to penalize random guessing.
Khan Academy will provide free test-prep tutorials online, reports the Washington Post.
“It is time for an admissions assessment that makes it clear that the road to success is not last-minute tricks or cramming, but the learning students do over years,” said David Coleman, the College Board’s president.
Students will be able to finish the exam in three hours, if they skip the optional essay section, which will take 50 minutes. (To avoid exhaustion, students can take the SAT II composition test on another day.)
The math section will tighten its focus on data analysis, problem solving, algebra and topics leading into advanced math. Calculators, now permitted throughout the math section, will be barred in some portions to help gauge math fluency.
The section now called “critical reading” will be merged with multiple-choice writing questions to form a new section called “evidence-based reading and writing.” Questions known as “sentence completion,” which in part assess vocabulary, will be dropped. Analysis of passages in science, history and social studies will be expanded.
And each version of the test will include a passage from documents crucial to the nation’s founding, or core civic texts from sources such as President Abraham Lincoln or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The vocabulary will focus on “words that are widely used in college and career.” For example, “synthesis” is used in college, said Coleman.
Carol Jago, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, who serves on a College Board advisory panel, said the test revisions would “reward students who take high school seriously, who are real readers, who write well.” She said she was loath to drop from the exam a word such as “egalitarian,” which appears in one College Board practice test. But she said: “Maybe we can live without ‘phlegmatic.’ ”
The essay never caught on with college admissions officers, reports the New York Times. Writing quickly, with no time for research or revision, isn’t a college skill.
The new SAT will be more like the ACT, which has been attracting more students. However, the ACT includes a science section, while the SAT will have only a science reading passage.
“Obscure” words give us powers of description, clarity and insight, writes Andy Smarick on Flypaper. “Words enable us to explain, and an infinitely complex world requires an expansive vocabulary so we can be clear and precise.”