Most of the students who read our ThinkTank Learning publications are familiar with the SAT. In fact some of you may be very familiar with the SAT (I asked for a kitten on my twelfth birthday and, much to my chagrin, received an SAT prep book instead). Did you know, however, that the test for college admission we know today had considerably different beginnings?
While currently administered to college-going hopefuls, the SAT started out at the turn of the century as a psychological test used in the United States Army. Later, colleges adopted it for admissions purposes and officially dubbed it the “Scholastic Aptitude Test.” Rather than the Critical Reading, Math, and Writing portions we know today, the test covered a wealth of topics including languages like French, German, Latin, and even sciences like chemistry and physics. Over the last century, not only has the test changed its name to simply, the SAT, with no acronymic function, but it has also undergone many incarnations of form and content. Recently, the College Board announced another such incarnation, and this time, it’s fairly significant.
The redesign is a response to wide criticism that the SAT reflects little school-relevant knowledge and favors those who can afford paying for test prep. Furthermore, last year, the ACT (the SAT’s main competitor) surpassed the SAT in number of takers for the first time. While we expect the College Board to reveal more details about the new test over time, here is what we know so far:
• Scoring: Abandoning the current 2400 point system, the test will be scored out of a total of 1600 (as it used to be), with two 800-point sections in Reading and Math. Writing will still be an element but will be incorporated into the Reading section and the essay.
• Source Documents: The Reading/Writing section will contain source documents relating to many different disciplines including social science and science.
• Founding Documents: The test will feature a reading passage relevant to American history and culture, for example, a “founding document” like the Declaration of Independence or a discussion of such a text (Lewin).
• Essay: The essay, currently required, will become optional. That is not to say, however, that it won’t still be recommended, from a strategic point of view, to complete the essay. In addition, instead of an open-ended question, the new test will prompt the taker to read a passage and write about how the author constructed and supported an argument.
• Guessing Penalty: The current quarter-point penalty for an incorrect answer will be removed. Therefore, there will be no penalty for wrong answers.
• Updated Vocabulary: While the older SAT often tested antiquated vocabulary words, the new test will focus on more practical, college-relevant words like “empirical” and “synthesis” (Lewin).
The College Board plans to release the new test in the spring of 2016, primarily affecting current high school freshmen. Current high school sophomores and beyond will continue taking the current version of the test, and will not be affected. We will continue to release more details as they become available. Rest assured that here at ThinkTank, we will keep abreast of the changes and adapt our test support for our students as needed.
By Robin Lau , ThinkTank Learning Lead Consultant