The Lowdown on the SAT Changes

What’s all the fuss about the SAT changes, anyway? Pen & Prep recently sat down with the president of Cram Crew, Deepak Thadhani, to get answers to some hotly debated questions.

Question: Can you give a broad overview of the changes being made to the SAT?

Answer: They are doing away with many of the things that make the SAT so different from the ACT (guessing strategies, vocabulary memorization, etc.) and introducing reading passages that are more closely aligned with the types of texts students read in school. The changes will help the test do a better job of measuring students’ accumulated learning instead of how well they studied just for the SAT.

Q: What about the format changes?

A: The format changes are pretty extensive and include a change in almost every area of the exam. The essay, once required, will now be optional. It will also now be 50 minutes instead of 25 and will focus on analytical thinking over simple writing skills. The critical reading will merge with the multiple-choice writing questions to form a section called “evidence-based reading and writing.” Each test will include as a reading passage a document that is considered a critical civic text. Obscure vocabulary will no longer be tested; instead vocabulary questions will focus on words students are likely to use or encounter in real-world situations. The math section will focus more on data analysis and on more advanced math concepts beyond simple algebra. The guess penalty has been eliminated, which is a major change for students in regards to how they prepare for the SAT. And finally, the total score will return to 1600: 800 for math and 800 for evidence-based reading and writing.

Q: When is the SAT changing?

A: The first administration of the redesigned exam will take place in the spring of 2016. The current class of 2017 will be affected by the change.

Q: What does the change mean for students?

A: Preparing for the SAT will be very similar to preparing for the ACT exam. The current SAT requires students to learn how to actually take the exam whereas in the future the preparation will focus on content and analysis. Students will not be required to learn a lot of outside material that they don’t currently learn in school.

Q: How do you think these changes will affect Cram Crew and tutoring companies in general?

A: I strongly believe that some students benefit from a one-on-one approach. Yes, we help navigate the test and material, but we are also here to provide confidence and support throughout the standardized testing process. Even though the College Board has updated the SAT, this does not change the fact that most universities require a standardized test for admissions. This process can be intimidating for parents and students who have never navigated it before. We are simply a tool they can use to gain insight into the process.

Q: Why do you think the SAT made such drastic changes?

A: I think the changes have been a long time coming. In 2012 more students took the ACT than the SAT. In recent years, I have seen more of my students choose the ACT because of the format and structure of the test. It’s not a surprise that the new SAT mirrors the ACT, which does not have a scoring penalty and includes an optional essay.

Q: What should parents and student be doing in the meantime?

A: While 2016 seems like a long time away, it is important that students and parents anticipate test-taking needs.

Q: Any idea what the new test will look like?

A: The College Board will be releasing sample items from the newly designed test. This will allow students to get an idea of what to expect on the new exam. The Development team at Cram Crew will be hard at work researching the proposed changes, developing new materials for the exam, and creating timelines and strategies for students to use.

So, to put all of this into perspective, the SAT is changing and it looks like it’s for the better. Get your test-taking pencil (or computer mouse) ‘cause there’s a new test in town!

– Aleah J.

  • Deepak Thadhani

    Excellent post! These changes are exciting and you did an excellent job providing insights.