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Reworked SAT Rolled Out across the Country

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March 13, 2016

Students around the country are taking the new SAT test, hoping for a high enough score to help gain them entry to college or university.

The number of options in a multiple choice question have dropped from five to four. Incorrect answers will no longer result in one-quarter-point penalty that had become so familiar. And the much maligned vocabulary section, with its familiar selection of very unfamiliar words, has been removed.

As well, test organizers the College Board eliminated the writing section as a requirement, so the test’s remaining components are mathematical and verbal, each worth a total of 800 points. Students can choose to write an essay that challenges them to analyze evidence in a real-world context (a change from the personal values focus that the 800-point writing section has had since its inception in 2005), but that part of the test is now optional and will result in a separate score. Students who want to complete the essay finish their three-hour math and verbal exam, hand that in, and then get an additional 50 minutes to complete their essay.

The idea, test organizers say, is to more accurately match classroom learning, so that students who are well prepared to do their classwork will not have to spend large amounts of test-specific time learning different skills.

Answers to short-answer questions now require evidence from sources provided, which should be less obscure and more familiar to students based on traditional curricula in science or American history.

Questions in mathematics include statistics and trigonometry (whereas the previous test stopped at advanced algebra) and also should be more in line with students can be expected to confront in post-secondary study and in the real world.

For the first time, the College Board and the Khan Academy have offered free test preparation courses, in an attempt to remove financial barriers to such instruction.

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