9 Things Changing on the New SAT

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The College Board announced some radical changes to the SAT on Wednesday. Starting in 2016, the college entrance exam will take on a whole new format that is aimed at making the test more practical and fair. Here are the big changes:

1. Students must use evidence in their answers

In the past, students would select answers from multiple choices to demonstrate their understanding of the text. Now, students will be asked to support their answer with evidence and to cite specific passages.

2. Vocabulary will be more practical

The old SAT vocabulary wasn’t particularly useful in day-to-day life (except to impress your friends). New vocabulary will focus on words students will likely encounter in college and the workplace.

3. Math section will cover fewer topics

The old math section had only a few questions for each topic (algebra, geometry, etc.). The new math section will focus on fewer math topics that students must know more in depth.

4. Calculators will be banned from portions of the math section

The new no-calculator portion of the test is designed to assess students’ understanding of the mathematical concepts, rather than their ability to “plug and chug.”

5. Widely-read founding documents and speeches will be included

The old test asked questions about passages few students had seen before. The new test will include a passage drawn from documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

6. Students will not be penalized for incorrect answers

Students used to get a 1/4 point deduction for incorrect answers but no points deducted for skipped answers. New “rights-only” scoring will not penalize students for incorrect answers. Test-takers are thus encouraged to answer every question.

7. Students can choose whether or not to write an essay

Here’s the big one: the essay used to be required. Now it’s optional.

8. Smaller scores

The old test was out of 2400. The new test will be out of 1600.

9. Digital SATs will be available

The SAT used to be available in paper only. Beginning in 2016, the new exam will be offered both in print and digitally.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com