In 2005, the College Board changed the format of the SAT. For decades, the test consisted of two sections (math and reading) each worth 800 points, for a perfect score of 1600. Eight years ago, the College Board added a third section, also worth 800 points: a mandatory writing section, with a 25 minute writing sample and multiple-choice grammar and writing questions. The perfect score is now 2400. The test takes almost four hours. Perhaps for that reason, among others, last year more students took the ACT than the SAT.
This week, president of the College Board, David Coleman announced that change will come again to the SAT. Although he did not elaborate on a specific format, he had cited particular dissatisfaction with the writing prompt and vocabulary questions. In a speech at the Brookings Institute, he stated, “I have a problem with the SAT writing. So if you look at the way the SAT assessment is designed, when you write an essay even if it’s an opinion piece, there’s no source information given to you.” He concedes that writing skills are essential components of good communication in college as well as in the work force, so he would like to revise the essay to allow source material upon which to base a response. Perhaps, rather than opinion pieces, the SAT would include “data based questions” like ones for subjects like Advanced Placement United States History. Regarding the vocabulary, he maintains that “SAT words are famous as the words you will never use again.” Instead, he proposes including words that students will use repeatedly in college and beyond.
He intends to align the test with the Common Core, yet other details are nebulous. Will the SAT look more like the ACT, with a science section? Will the re-design preclude the necessity of SAT Subject Tests? When will the new test become available? Time will tell.