This month, the College Board has officially transitioned from the “old” SAT to a redesigned format. Students have mixed feelings about this alteration, as it will be a significantly different test with modified aims. The current SAT, which has been in use since 2005, is scored on a 2,400 point scale and has three distinct sections: critical reading, math and writing (which includes a required essay). The three sections are broken into nine shorter chunks that range from 10 to 25 minutes in length.
This layout will be modified in the new format, as the test will be divided into four larger portions: reading, writing (with an optional essay), math with calculator, and math without a calculator. By increasing the length of each section, students are required to stay focused for over an hour before receiving a break. The new SAT will only offer four options for multiple choice answers, as opposed to the five options on the current SAT. In addition, incorrect answers will no longer deduct points from your raw score.
The current SAT challenges students to analyze information and make connections in order to complete the questions, which can be more challenging for some learners than the ACT’s approach. Rather than inferring the author’s opinion towards characters and ideas and evaluating the implication of certain word choices, the reading section on the ACT is more detail-oriented and focuses on the main idea of each passage.
The new format of the SAT will be more similar to the ACT, but it will still require students to find evidence to support certain claims and examine the writer’s technique. The new math section of the SAT will cover a variety of areas, but basic algebraic principles will be emphasized in contrast to the geometry-heavy ACT.
The effectiveness and success of the SAT’s new format cannot be determined yet, but the primary concern for most students is how colleges will interpret their scores. There is a significant disadvantage to taking the newly designed test because of the limited and possibly unreliable study guides and practice tests. Hopefully, the “guinea pigs” that take the first few tests this spring will provide good feedback to the College Board and more preparation aids will become available over time. However, students should not be discouraged from taking the SAT just because it is new. The design change has been in progress for years with experimental sections in some of the older SATs, which tells us that a large amount of work and consideration has been put into constructing the new format.