Redesigned SAT to echo aspects of popular ACT

Aaron is staying at a hotel that charges $99.95 per night plus tax for a room. A tax of 8 percent is applied to the room rate, and an additional one-time untaxed fee of $5 is charged by the hotel. Which of the following represents Aaron’s total charge, in dollars, for staying x nights?

The College Board will introduce a new version of its SAT test in March, replacing the current test and several of its notable attributes while shifting the focus of questions to ones that read like the one above.

After the competing ACT’s growth in recent years, the SAT will be adjusting the content and form of its exam to align more with Common Core standards, yet the new version bears striking similarities to its popular rival. The most identifiable similarity is the SAT’s change from a quarter-point penalty for incorrect responses to no penalty and the optional essay, both of which are well-known characteristics of the ACT.

“It’s not as nerve-wracking because you don’t have to worry about the guessing penalty,” CHS junior Sophia Quevedo remarks of the new test.

Among other notable changes are the shift in grading scale from a total of 2400 to 1600, the modification from a 25-minute required essay to a 50-minute optional one and the decrease from five to four possible answers in the multiple choice.

The scoring change is a result of the reduction from three sections—math, reading, writing—to two sections—math and reading/writing.

Overall, an increase in the amount of reading in the entire test, including the math section, will be stressed. In fact, the now-optional essay will no longer concern personal experience, but rather will include an excerpt and ask students to analyze the reading and present evidence, a theme for the entire test.

The combination reading and writing section is experiencing major revisions, as less emphasis will be placed on complex, obscure vocabulary, a drastic adjustment compared to the expunction of the infamous analogy component or “verbal reasoning” in the 2005 redesign of the SAT.

“Vocabulary was a big change because the old SAT was largely focused on having massive vocabulary and complex words,” says junior Evan Patel, who took the current SAT and has taken the upgraded PSAT. “The biggest change for me was going from that to almost having no emphasis on vocabulary words.”

However, regardless of whether the modification of the 90-year-old test will be positive or negative for students, counselor Darren Johnston recommends that students avoid the SAT altogether.

“Just take the ACT and be done with it,” Johnston advises. “We know what those scores mean.”

According to Johnston, most CHS students prefer the ACT and, typically, perform better than they do on the SAT anyways. An additional concern is that no one knows how the scores compare to the current scores and what colleges will be expecting. Johnston explains that it will be at least one admission cycle for colleges to announce preferred scores, putting the Class of 2017 at a disadvantage.

Yet, the greatest consternation may come from the lack of test-prep material and the fact that it may take two to three cycles of the test for companies to produce reliable information.

Johnston adds, “There is not going to be reliable test-prep tutors who have experience and training.”

For Patel, the lack of material was the major motivator for him to take the current SAT, so he can have the option of using his score from the old or the new test.

For more information about the new SAT, visit CollegeBoard.org.

-Delaney King