7 Things You Need to Know About the SAT Changes

By Sylvan Learning

Age Groups

Saying the letters “SAT“ around any high school junior or senior is sure to inspire a mix of emotions. Students could be nervous to take the test, excited about applying to colleges or worried that they haven’t done enough to prepare.


Now, sweeping changes to the exam are on the horizon. The College Board recently announced that the test will be redesigned to more closely align to what is being learned in the classroom. Students will be tested on the knowledge and skills that research shows they need to succeed in college and eventually, their career. The new test will aim to discourage students from cramming and using test-taking tricks to succeed.


Today’s ninth graders will be first at bat, taking the new SAT as juniors when it debuts in Spring 2016. Here are the top seven things you and your teen need to know about the SAT changes before he or she sits down to take the test:


1. Essay Optional.  Essay is now optional and given at the end of the test. Students opting for the essay will be allowed 50 additional minutes. The essay goal is to test reading, analysis and writing skills. 


2. Guess Away. The old SAT discouraged guessing by docking a fraction of a point for each incorrect response. In the new version, there will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers.  


3. Focus on Everyday Vocabulary. Traditional SAT words like “anachronistic” or  “spurious” will be replaced with those that are used more widely in the classroom and work settings like “synthesis” and “empirical.” This aligns with Common Core standards, which state that students “acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases … at the college and career readiness level.”


4. Analog vs. Digital. Students will have the option of taking the SAT in the traditional paper form or a new digital version.


5. Evidence is Key. Within every text section, students will be required to back up their answers with a specific part of the passage that supports their choice. This change will reflect an increased importance placed on citing evidence in the reading & writing portion. 


6. Fewer Math Topics. Questions will be drawn from topics that evidence shows most contribute to college readiness and career training. The three categories of topics are Problem Solving & Data Analysis, the Heart of Algebra and Passport to Advanced Math. Test takers will need to be prepared to answer a range of questions that dig deeper into these topics, similar to today’s Common Core standards for math.


7. Limited Use of Calculators. Calculators will now only be allowed during certain portions of the exam.      


It’s important that you and your child understand what they will be tested on and be prepared for test day. Education Week put together this handy cheat sheet to quickly see the difference between the two tests.


SAT and ACT test prep is available in many Sylvan learning centers. In contrast to most programs, Sylvan uses a proven mix of small-group instruction, independent learning, online resources and practice tests. Contact your local center for course availability. http://www.sylvanlearning.com/locations

For more information about the SAT, visit www.sat.collegeboard.org.