College Board, administrators of the SAT exam, unveiled plans to move beyond delivering assessments to delivering opportunity. Citing input from College Board members in the K–12 and higher education communities, as well as students and parents, College Board president, Mr. Coleman outlined two bold new actions the organization would take to deliver opportunities to students.
“What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities,” said Coleman. “The real news today is not just the redesigned SAT, but the College Board’s renewed commitment to delivering opportunity.”
The College Board’s first action expands the organization’s recent outreach to college-ready low-income students to provide them with customized, targeted support in the college application process. Coleman announced that every income-eligible student who takes the SAT will directly receive four fee waivers to apply to college, removing a cost barrier faced especially by low- and middle-income students.
“We can cut through so much red tape and hesitation by giving students the admission fee waivers they need, information they understand and the encouragement they need to apply more broadly,” said Coleman.
The College Board’s second announcement directly confronts one of the greatest inequities around college entrance exams, namely the culture and practice of high-priced test preparation. Coleman revealed that the College Board is partnering with Khan Academy to provide the world with free test-preparation materials for the redesigned SAT.
College Board and Khan Academy will build this material together for launch in spring 2015. This means for the first time ever, all students who want to take the SAT will be able to prepare for the exam with sophisticated, interactive software that gives students deep practice and helps them diagnose their gaps at absolutely no cost. In the meantime, students who will take the current SAT can now go to Khan Academy to work through hundreds of previously unreleased practice problems from actual SAT exams, accompanied by more than 200 videos that show how to solve the problems step-by-step.
“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 the Khan Academy.
As a critical 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 and the work that students do in challenging high school courses.
The redesigned exam will:
- have three sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Essay.
- return to the 1600 scale. The essay will provide a separate score.
- be approximately three hours in length, with an additional 50 minutes for the essay.
- be administered both in print and by computer in 2016.
The first administration of the redesigned exam will take place in spring 2016. The College Board has released the full specifications of the exam along with extensive sample items for each section.
Major changes to the exam include:
- Relevant words in context: The SAT will focus on words that students will 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.
- 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.
- Math focused on three key areas: Problem Solving and Data Analysis; the Heart of Algebra; and Passport to Advanced Math.
- 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, including identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two.
- 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, and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. 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.
Two major factors led to the decision to make the essay optional. First, while the writing work in the exam is predictive of college readiness and success, one essay alone historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam. Second, feedback from College Board member admission officers was split; some found the essay useful, many did not.
Some industry observers have alternative theories for the essay becoming optional ten years after being introduced. Possible theories include, students choosing the cheaper ACT test and more college admissions making such aptitude tests either optional or not required for admission.
Whatever the reasons, the shorter test will be welcomed by students.