7 Ways the SAT Is Changing

3 minute read

High school students who take the SAT in 2016 will face a very different test than those who came before them. From an increase in curriculum-based questions to a revamped essay section, here are the seven ways the SAT is changing next year:

1) Free test prep: Thanks to a new partnership with Khan Academy, students will be able to access high-quality online test prep without signing up for programs like Princeton Review or Kaplan, which are often difficult for students from low-income families to afford. The Khan Academy test prep has an exclusive relationship with the College Board, which designs the SAT, meaning the free prep might also be the best prep.

2) No penalty for wrong answers: Students won’t be penalized for wrong answers anymore, which means an end to the days of staring at the bubble sheet and guessing whether it’s worth it to guess.

3) Revamped essay: Instead of penning a personal essay for the writing section, students taking the new SAT will be asked to read a passage and then explain how the author is persuading the audience. The essay question will be consistent and will be widely available before the test, but the students won’t see the passage until they take the test.

4) Evidence-focused reading: Just like the new essay section, the reading section will also be more focused on evidence. Students will be asked a question about the text, and then asked which piece of evidence best supports that answer. That means if you get the first question wrong, it could be difficult to get the second question right.

5) No more obscure vocabulary: Instead of quizzing students on words they’ll never use again like “abrogate” or “plaudit,” the new SAT asks students to define a word based on how it’s used in context. Sample questions show familiar words that can have various meanings—for example, “intense” can mean “concentrated,” “emotional” or “determined,” depending on the context.

6) More graphs and charts: The new test will have an increased emphasis on questions that make students infer information from graphs and charts, especially in the reading section. Students will also be asked to revise sentences in order to make them consistent with information in graphs.

7) More great texts: The new SAT reading section will include excerpts from U.S. founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, as well as other important works by authors including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Students will not be expected to be familiar with the documents beforehand (so it’s not like an Advanced Placement History test) but they are included to make sure the SAT is more relevant and more closely aligned to what kids are actually learning in school.

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com