College Board Reveals Changes to 2016 SAT

Posted By Eliana Osborn on June 23, 2015 at 10:46 am
College Board Reveals Changes to 2016 SAT

The College Board has revealed the basic changes to the new version of the SAT for 2016.  The biggest shift?  The essay portion will no longer be mandatory.  There are other changes, of course, but for stressed out students, not having to worry about writing an essay on top of hundreds of multiple choice questions should be a relief.

The goal of the redesigned test? To more accurately measure what students are doing in high school classrooms.  According to the College Board, the new SAT will “focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success.”  With that broad idea in mind, this is how the 2016 SAT will be broken down:


The 2016 SAT will include four sections of math:

  • The Heart of Algebra: Linear equations and systems
  • Passport to Advanced Math: Complex equations
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis: Ratios, percentages, and proportions—the kind of math that uses information to figure problems out
  • Additional Topics in Math: Geometry and trigonometry

Students will still be able to use a calculator on some, but not all, math sections.  The new test is looking for more complex thinking, with problems that have multiple steps.

Evidence-based reading and writing

This used to simply be known as the language section.  The new title explains a lot about the focus here: critical thinking and analysis.  Vocabulary will be more complex – students will have to define words that have several meanings, based on what they signify in individual passages.

There won’t be any sentence completion on this new SAT, but students will have to look at graphics and texts to come up with proof to back up their answers.  At least one of the texts they read will be from history (for example, a portion of the Constitution or something similar).  Students will be encouraged to think of it as more than just a piece of writing and consider what it means in a larger context.

Format changes

On the bright side, there will be fewer questions on the new SAT and there will be no penalty for guessing – on the old version, a wrong answer subtracted one quarter of a point instead of just counting as zero.  Students can also expect just four multiple choice answers, rather than the five it used to be.

Other modifications include an online SAT instead of a paper one in some locations.  SAT scores will also be much more specific, giving students valuable feedback about where they succeeded and where they struggled.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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