College Board Changes SATs And Waives Fees For Low-Income Students

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The SATs have always been controversial. Some have long complained that the test was biased, outdated, and not relevant to current school curricula. New changes by the College Board aim to make the all-important Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) more in line with school work.

Among the sweeping changes, the College Board will no longer have a penalty for guessing wrong, will eliminate obscure vocabulary words and have made the essay optional. The new version will debut in the spring of 2016.

According to David Coleman, president of the College Board, the SAT, and its main rival, the ACT, both exams had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

Coleman also announced programs to assist low-income students, giving them fee waivers to apply to four colleges at no cost. Also, the College Board has teamed up with Khan Academy to offer free online practice problems and instructional videos.

“It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country,” Coleman said. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”

In addition to the vocabulary word changes, other sections of the test have also been redesigned. “The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections,” reports The New York Times.

Also every exam will have a reading passage either from one of the nation’s “founding documents,” such as the Declaration of Independence or from one of the important texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

Scoring for the new test, which will be available on the computer and paper, will go back to the old 1,600-point scale — instead of  2,400. Top scores will be 800 on math and 800 on what will now be known as “evidence-based reading and writing.” The now-optional essay will have a separate score.

The College Board may have made the changes to get back on top. In 2013, 1.8 million students took the ACT versus 1.7 million for the SAT. Plus, an increasing number of colleges have become “test optional,” meaning applicants don’t need to take the exams.

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