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Three Important (& Necessary) Changes to the SAT Exam

As educators and parents of prospective test-takers may have heard by this point, the College Board is implementing sweeping adjustments to the SAT exam beginning in the fall of 2016. Here are three changes that I am particularly excited about and feel are long overdue!

1) The Essay Component is Now Optional While I believe that a student’s ability to write a clear and cogent essay is arguably one of the most important metrics by which a college can gauge the success of a prospective student, I’ve always felt that the current SAT format does not represent an accurate indicator of such a skill. The SAT’s essay component does not reward writers who prefer to take a few extra minutes to thoughtfully craft a response. Instead, it asks test-takers to write a hurried 3-page essay to a previously unknown prompt in a scant 25 minutes. There are many deft writers who cannot compose responses under these highly pressurized conditions, which is why I believe that it is only fair that this portion of the test become optional.

2) Removing the Penalty for Incorrect Answers Students will no longer be penalized for answering a question incorrectly. The current SAT scoring system discourages students from taking educated guesses in fear that an incorrect response will result in a rather harsh quarter point penalty. Some students are able to accurately eliminate three of a possible five answers choices on a particular question before selecting an incorrect answer. Yet, the current guidelines seemingly do not distinguish this student from one who is blindly guessing among any of a possible five answer choices. In my estimation, the new scoring guidelines will surely reward students who are able to make more educated and accurate guesses.

3) The Elimination of “Rarefied” Vocabulary The College Board has pledged to rid the test of antiquated and esoteric vocabulary in favor of more commonly used words. The ACT did away with this unnecessary exercise long ago, yet the SAT clung to the belief that a rich vocabulary was paramount to future success. It is important to have a rich vocabulary, but young students have the rest of their lives to improve their language skills.


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