The essay portion of the test, which was added in 2005, will become optional for students. Those who choose to take the essay will receive a separate score. According to the press release, College Board members were “split” on the usefulness of the essay, ultimately deciding that “one essay alone historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”
Students will also no longer be penalized for incorrect answers. Currently, students are deducted a quarter of a point for every question they answer incorrectly. The change will enable students to provide the best possible answer for each question without a fear of penalty.
The test’s two sections, evidence-based reading and writing and math, will be administered over approximately three hours, with the optional essay given afterwards.
Vocabulary will include words that students are more likely to be familiar with, such as “synthesis” and “empirical,” rather than obscure words that often lack utility in most contexts.
The evidence-based reading and writing section will contain recognizable passages from historical documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Currently, the exam’s source documents are not widely recognized, according to the College Board, making them more difficult for students to prepare for.
The math section will also draw from fewer topics, focusing on problem solving and data analysis, algebra, and advanced math. Calculators will only be permitted on certain math portions of the exam. Right now, calculators are allowed for all math sections.
The SAT will also be available in paper and digital form beginning in 2016.
The College Board will also be partnering with Khan Academy — a nonprofit organization that provides free educational materials on a variety of subjects — to create free, interactive software available for all students for SAT preparation by 2015. “What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities,” said Coleman. “We can cut through so much red tape and hesitation by giving students the admission fee waivers they need.”