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Big Changes Ahead for College Entrance Exam SAT
March 5, 2014

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The SAT is changing, for the first time since 2005.

Administrators of the popular university entrance exam College Board have announced major changes, among them making the essay portion of the exam optional and offering another option, that of taking the test using a computer.

The new exam will appear in 2016. Reading, writing, and mathematics skills will continue to be the focus. Questions in those areas will focus more heavily on analysis, College Board officials said. In math specifically, calculators will be allowed on only a select number of questions, and overall math questions will focus more on skills with real-world application.

Another real-world change will be in the vocabulary section, where the focus will be less on esoterica and more on words that students will use in their workplace careers.

The essay portion of the exam (added in 2005, when analogies were removed) will be optional, although students should know the requirements of the colleges or universities to which they wish to apply before choosing not to participate in the essay portion. As well, scoring for the essay will focus more heavily on students' analytical skills than in previous years. Students choosing to attempt the essay will have an additional 50 minutes on top of the normal three hours, and the essay will be scored separately. The maximum score will go from 2,400 to 1,600, where it was in 2005.

In addition, exam officials have jettisoned the extra penalty for wrong answers.

Significantly, College Board officials insist that cost will not be a barrier to either exam preparation or college admission. Officials will make available free test-prep materials provided by the nonprofit Khan Academy. Officials will also offer four waivers for college application fees for income-eligible students.

In 2013, 1.7 million students took the SAT exam.



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