The Redesigned SAT

At last the new redesigned SAT was formerly announced on 5 March 2014 ending months of speculation about its content.

The new test content will be first administered in the fall 2015 PSAT, with the SAT launch in ‘spring 2016.’  

The New SAT will eliminate the quarter point guessing penalty, obviate ‘obscure vocabulary’ from its reading sections—stressing discovery of meaning through context, and require students to support their answers to reading questions from evidence supplied in the passage.

On the mathematics front, the New SAT will focus on problem solving and data analysis (ratios, percentages, and proportions), linear equations and systems, and something that sounds a bit daunting, “Passport to Advanced Math” which deals with ‘manipulation of complex equations’. In essence the New SAT will be narrowing its math focus to the three aforementioned areas (though it reserves the right to add or change areas as needed to ensure its math questions are applicable to a wide range of majors and careers).         

The problems a student will encounter in the New SAT are based on ‘real-world contexts’.  For this it will offer ‘evidence-based reading and writing sections’ with questions that  cover literature and ‘literary non-fiction’  including charts, graphs and prose, similar to what can be found in science, social science majors and careers. These are the same type of questions addressed in the ACT Science section, and in its social science and natural science reading passages.

Moreover, the redesigned SAT will also have questions that will make students apply their suite of skills to ‘science, history, and social studies’.

Any seasoned high school counselor who hears this description without the words, “ redesigned New SAT” would leap to the conclusion that it describes the ACT, but, admittedly, there are some unique additions that make the New SAT a shade or two different.         

Specifically, the New SAT will now offer, for lack of a better description, a ‘Great Books’ section that  features a selection from America’s founding documents, such as the Federalist Papers, the US Constitution, or a text from the ‘Great Global conversation’ about freedom, justice, and human dignity.         

Furthermore, the writing section (with its improving, correcting, and editing sentences) will be optional. This is surprising as the addition of the SAT Writing subject test was the major redesign feature added to the 2005 SAT facelift (at the insistence of the University of California which if denied would have eliminated the SAT admissions requirement). Many institutions, however, don’t even consider the writing score in their admissions calculations.

The redesigned SAT will be three hours long, with an additional 50 minutes allocated to the essay. It will also return to its pre-2005 1600 point scale (the essay score will be reported separately), and will have both a print and online version.

Lastly, the redesigned SAT will attempt to curtail the need for expensive test prep services by allying with Khan Academy ( which will offer 200 videos, free, covering the main topics of the test.

When Donald Coleman made the announcement of the changes to the test, he opined, “It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools… [students] are skeptical that either the SAT or the ACT allows them to show their best work…”  A more accurate description would have been that the ACT, which is already well situated to assess the curriculum-based skills that are at the foundation of Donald Coleman’s Common Core State Standards, is now being joined by the redesigned SAT. We know curriculum-based testing has worked well for the ACT, as it’s now the dominant standardized test in America.  The SAT covets a place at the ACT table. How the test taker and the college admissions offices benefit from having two curriculum-based tests is anyone’s guess.