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College Board redesigns elements of SAT

The College Board recently laid out major changes to the SAT, scheduled to take effect in spring 2016.

As a component of the organization’s initiatives to deliver equal opportunity, the College Board is redesigning the SAT to focus on the few things that evidence shows matter most for college and career readiness.

“We will honor the qualities which have made the SAT excellent,” said College Board President David Coleman. “We will build on the remarkable care and expertise which statisticians have used to make the exam valid and predictive. While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before.”

The redesigned exam will have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math and the Essay; return to the 1600-point scale, with the essay providing a separate score; be approximately three hours in length, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay; and be administered both in print and by computer in 2016.

The College Board is scheduled to release the full specifications of the exam along with extensive sample items for each section April 16.

Major changes

Major changes to the SAT include the following.

• Relevant words in context. SAT words will no longer be vocabulary students may not have heard before and are likely not to hear again. Instead, the SAT will focus on words that students would use consistently in college and beyond.

• Evidence-based reading and writing. Students will be asked to support answers with evidence, including questions that require them to cite a specific part of a passage to support their answer.

• Essay analyzing a source. The essay will measure students’ ability to analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience. Responses will be evaluated based on the strength of the analysis and the coherence of the writing. The essay portion of the writing section will no longer be required.

• Math focused on three key areas. The math section will focus on three areas: problem solving and data analysis; the heart of algebra; and passport to advanced math.

• Source documents originate from a wide range of academic disciplines, including science and social studies. The reading section will enable students to analyze a wide range of sources, including literature and literary nonfiction, science, history and social studies.

• Analyzing data and texts in real-world context. Students will be asked to analyze both text and data in real-world contexts, including identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two.

• Founding Documents and Great Global Conversation. Each exam will include a passage drawn from the Founding Documents of America or the Great Global Conversation they inspire – texts like the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.

• Scoring does not deduct points for incorrect answers (rights-only scoring). The College Board will remove the penalty for wrong answers.

Partnership with Khan Academy

Coleman said the College Board is partnering with the Mountain View-based Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT, slated to launch in spring 2015.

The partnership enables students who want to take the SAT to prepare free of charge.

“For too long, there’s been a well-known imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn’t,” said Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy. “We’re thrilled to collaborate closely with the College Board to level the playing field by making truly world-class test-prep materials freely available to all students.”

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