Students know the SAT as one of the primary standardized tests they must take for college admissions. They also know that colleges treat their scores with an importance that rivals their GPA, which can make preparation a big source of worry even for students who usually receive high grades. For this reason the content, format, and testing policies of the SAT have always been subject to intense scrutiny by students, teachers, parents, and test makers.
The fact that the SAT is often redesigned periodically adds to the amount of attention it receives, in part because students may experience anxiety regarding how certain kinds of changes may either help or hurt their chances of excelling on the SAT
The SAT has been revised numerous times since its inception in the early 20th Century. Up until the 1990s changes occurred about at least once a decade. More recently in the last few decades, the SAT has changed every few years, although some of them have been minor or had more to do with options students have to choose which scores they send to colleges.
The current SAT is very similar to the last major version from 2005, and includes a required Essay section in addition to the familiar Math, Reading, and Critical Writing sections. The
College Board, the private nonprofit organization that creates the SAT, reports that major changes will take place yet again in Spring of 2016. The changes will include slightly modified content and topics of emphasis in the Math, Reading, and Writing sections (the second two will also be grouped together), an Essay section that will now be OPTIONAL, and a scoring policy where students will not lose points for guessing wrong answers and where their score isn?t affected if they leave answers blank.
In an effort to more closely resemble the kind of skills students will need at a college or career level, the College Board reports the redesigned SAT will put more emphasis on the ability of students to use evidence and analytical thinking to solve problems. It will also require them to understand how words and concepts create meaning in the context of larger passages they are found in. The score range will also change slightly to reflect the modified format, from the current 600 ? 2400 to 400 ? 1600.
All of these changes may leave students wondering how it will affect their study strategies and natural strengths. On the one hand, the increased focus on analytical and context-based thinking may mean that mere memorization of material will be less useful in studying for the test. This and the general notion of good students who ?don?t test well? has often been a student concern about the Essay section as well. It may be that the choice to take an optional essay will give students more control over their test taking strategy, even during the time they are taking the test itself. In deciding whether to do the essay, for example, students could take into consideration how well they think they are doing on the other sections. Of course, it may also be wise for students to study to prepare for a (possible) essay beforehand, regardless of whether they know they will choose it.
Overall the changes to the SAT reflect the focus of the new Common Core Standards in that students will be expected to apply what they know rather than just regurgitate information. What are your thoughts? We?d love to hear your comments.