Soon students everywhere will be able to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the SAT. In two years (2016), they’ll have one less portion of the test to worry about, and that’s the timed essay portion of the exam, which will become optional.

Today, the College Board announced major changes to the test, The Washington Post reports, not only with the elimination of the essay, but also reverting back to the 1600 point system that was used eons ago. The test will also do away with the obscure vocabulary words, and focus on “real” world words.

From The Washington Post:

The second redesign of the SAT in this century — announced Wednesday and scheduled to go into effect when today’s high school freshmen take it in 2016 — aims to strip many of the tricks out of a test currently administered to more than 1.5 million students in every high school graduating class. It also comes with a College Board pledge to offer new test-preparation tutorials for free online, enabling students to bypass pricey SAT-prep classes that previously were available mostly to affluent families looking to give their children an edge.

Out in the redesign will be “SAT words” that have long prompted anxious students to cram with flashcards, as the test will now focus on vocabulary words that are widely used in college and career. The College Board hasn’t yet cited examples of words deemed too obscure, but “punctilious,” “phlegmatic” and “occlusion” are three tough ones in a College Board study guide.

Out, too, will be a much-reviled rule that deducts a quarter point for each wrong answer to multiple-choice questions, deterring random guesses. Also gone: The 2400-point scale begun nine years ago with the debut of the required essay. The essay will become optional.Back will be one of the iconic numbers of 20th-century America: The perfect SAT score, crystalline without a comma, returns to 1600.


The redesign will beef up the essay, giving students who choose to take it 50 minutes to analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument. The rest of the test will be three hours. Currently the SAT takes three hours and 45 minutes.

The math section will tighten its focus on data analysis, problem solving, algebra and topics leading into advanced math. Calculators, now permitted throughout the math section, will be barred in some portions to help gauge math fluency.

The section now called “critical reading” will be merged with multiple-choice writing questions to form a new section called “evidence-based reading and writing.” Questions known as “sentence completion,” which in part assess vocabulary, will be dropped. Analysis of passages in science, history and social studies will be expanded.

And each version of the test will include a passage from documents crucial to the nation’s founding, or core civic texts from sources such as President Abraham Lincoln or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

So what does this mean for students?

Well it will definitely give those students a chance who aren’t good at writing or vocabulary to score a higher grade. And it will also reward those students who actually excel in writing.  But since more universities are opting out of testing requirements, it will be interesting to see the percentage of students who realize they may not need the test for their university of choice.

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