The New SAT/ACT will be harder.

  • The motivation for the recent redesign of the SAT

Since the first redesign of the SAT in 2005, colleges in America have been expressing their concerns to the College Board about the poor correlation between SAT scores and the academic performance of admitted college students. Specifically, college admissions officers have been uncertain about using SAT scores as a reliable predictor of the applicants’ readiness for college education.

Before the plan for the recent overhaul of the SAT was announced in 2013, the College Board had hundreds of meetings with colleges to listen to their opinions regarding how to improve that correlation. Those conversations included discussing how to accomplish the ultimate goal, which is to send a clear message to K-12 students and their teachers that learning to read and write and mastering a solid background in mathematics are of critical importance.

The New SAT/ACT will begin to be administered in March 2016, and the first new PSAT will be launched about five months prior to that, in October 2015. The upgraded standards of the New SAT/ACT and new PSAT can be comprehended only in the same context as the Common Core Standards, which were also pioneered by David Coleman before he started to lead the College Board as President in October 2012.

Mr. Coleman’s determination to continue his mission of reforming the K-12 curriculum for college readiness is distinctly expressed in the interview he did with the New York Times in May 2012, when his new leadership of the College Board was announced “We have a crisis in education, and over the next few years, the main thing on the College Board’s agenda is to deliver its social mission. The College Board is not just about measuring and testing, but designing high-quality curriculum.” The changes that are being made on the SAT will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

  • The New SAT/ACT and PSAT will be more challenging than the current SAT and PSAT.

Since the goal of the New SAT/ACT is to provide K-12 teachers with the guidelines for enhancing the quality of education (which is exactly the same goal of the Common Core Standards), most of the education experts predict that students and teachers will be overwhelmed by the unprecedentedly challenging tone embedded in the New SAT/ACT when it debuts in 2016.

Oddly, however, most students and parents do not seem to recognize what they will face on the New SAT/ACT, erroneously expecting that the questions will be asked only about what they have memorized through classwork at school.

According to what has been announced on the website of the College Board, however, the difficulty level of the questions will be elevated on the New SAT/ACT, ranging from 9th grade to post-secondary school levels. The New SAT/ACT is not a pass-or-fail test, but a test which will rate the academic readiness of students for college education, ranking them by their scores so that the college admission boards can select college-ready applicants based on their SAT scores. If it were an easy and simple memory test, the New SAT/ACT scores would be meaningless to college admissions officers.

  • Sufficient Nonfiction Reading practice is critical to being successful on the reading and essay sections.

The most conspicuous change on the New SAT/ACT will be found in the reading-writing sections and in the essay section. Now it is obvious that the New SAT/ACT will also reflect the substantial emphasis on informational texts over fiction, as per Common Core Standards.

The passages within the critical reading comprehension questions will include a large variety of subjects, such as texts in the humanities, science, history, and social studies; career-related sources; and literature or literary nonfiction.

The key changes to the New SAT/ACT reading test are as follows:

  • Relevant Words in Context
  • The redesigned SAT will focus on relevant words, the meanings of which depend on how they’re used. Students will be asked to interpret the meanings of words based on the context of the passages in which they appear.
  • Command of Evidence
  • For every passage students read on the SAT Reading Test, there will be at least one question asking them to select a quote from the text that best supports the answer they have chosen in response to the preceding question. Some passages will be paired with informational graphics, and students will be asked to integrate the information conveyed via each graphic in order to find the best answer.

    Questions on the SAT Writing and Language Test will also focus on command of evidence. Students will be asked to analyze sequences of paragraphs to make sure they are correct, both grammatically and substantively. In some questions, students will be asked to interpret graphics and edit the accompanying passages so that they accurately convey the information in the graphics. Get more detailed information on the redesigned SAT’s reading test from "SAT reading test" published by the College Board.

    The Essay section will also require students to demonstrate command of evidence. Students will be asked to analyze a provided source text to determine how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience through the use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive devices, and then to write a cogent and clear analysis supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from the source.

    The Essay section, which is optional on the New SAT/ACT, will be the core of the redesign of the SAT. Although the essay is labeled as “optional,” more than 90% of colleges will require applicants to take this part of the test. On the essay section of the current SAT, students have been assessed on their writing skills only, but in the Essay section on the redesigned SAT, reading skills will be equally as important as writing skills.

  • Why are reading skills so important for the Essay section on the redesigned SAT?

[Excerpts from the publications of the College Board] The focus of the Essay section on the redesigned SAT will be very different from the essay on the current SAT. Students will read a source text and explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience. Students may analyze such aspects of the passage as the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive devices, and then to write a cogent and clear analysis supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from the source. This task more closely mirrors college writing assignments.

The new Essay section is also designed to support high school students and teachers as they cultivate close reading, careful analysis, and clear writing. It will promote the practice of reading a wide variety of arguments and analyzing how authors do their work as writers.

The Essay will ask students to:

  • Read and analyze a high-quality source text
  • Produce a cogent and clear written analysis of the text supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from the source
  • The new format, new scoring rubric, and new emphasis on the use of evidence make the SAT Essay a unique way to independently assess student writing and analytical skills.

    Student responses will be assessed based on the following three areas:

  • Their understanding of the source (passage) (4 points)
  • Their analysis of the author’s use of evidence, reasoning and/or stylistic and persuasive elements, and/or features of the text of the student’s own choosing (4 points)
  • The cohesiveness of the student’s written response as well as his or her use of language (4 points)
  • Get more detailed information on the New SAT/ACT’s Essay section from "Essay Analyzing a Source" published by the College Board and learn how much comprehensive and analytical reading skills will affect students’ quality of writing on the new Essay section.