The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
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JUNE 2017


From the


Education Supplement June 2014

The Revamped SAT: AMuch-Needed Overhaul or Cosmetic Surgery?



f you’re a student, a parent or even a grandparent, most likely

you’ve encountered the SAT. For much of its century-long

existence, this multiple-choice test that aims to assess academic

readiness for higher education has been one of the keys to col-

lege admission.

While a student’s high school grade-point average is still the

most important part of the college application, colleges also use

SAT results in evaluating applicants.

Once called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic

Assessment Test, it’s now simply the SAT™. For decades a two-

part (Reading and Mathematics) test, the SAT incorporated a

mandatory Writing section in 2005.

Recently, the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that

oversees the SAT, announced that the biggest revamp in its his-

tory will be implemented in the spring of 2016. The SAT will reflect

more of what is actually being learned in America’s schools,

and the College Board will make test preparation accessible to

students of all income levels.

Here are the details:

The entire process will be more transparent. The College

Board is moving away from using obscure texts, tricky questions

and unfamiliar vocabulary.

The writing portion will become optional, and scoring will

return to its pre-2005 potential total of 1,600 rather than 2,400.

Each of the two required sections, Evidence-Based Reading

and Writing, and Math, will offer the traditional score range of

200-800. The optional essay score will be added separately. The

optional essay will require more text-based analysis than in the


Vocabulary words will be more familiar, less arcane. The

College Board stresses that the test will emphasize a student’s

interpretation of the meaning of the word in context.

America’s important founding documents and meaningful

texts will be used as a part of every SAT exam.

The Mathematics section will be more focused, drawing

from fewer math sub-genres. The College Board has renamed the

three subsections of the Math component “Problem-Solving and

Data Analysis,”“The Heart of Algebra” and “Passport to Advanced

Math.” The focus will be on real-life math skills such as calculating

percentages and ratios, along with a few representative geometry

and trigonometry questions.

Wrong answers will no longer be penalized.

Free SAT test preparation will be available immediately

through a joint venture with the Khan Academy.

Francesca Kelly, a Foreign Service spouse, is a writer, university

counselor and college essay tutor. She writes frequently on educa-

tion issues and is a former editor of AFSANews. To see the complete

article, including a resources list, go to