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March 6, 2014

SAT undergoes sweeping changes

(Continued)

Instead of testing a wide range of math concepts, the new exam will focus on a few areas, like algebra, deemed most needed for college and life afterward. A calculator will be allowed only on certain math questions, instead of on the entire math portion.

Jim Rawlins, the director of admissions at the University of Oregon, said the changes appear "potentially helpful and useful" but it will take a few years to know the impact, after the students who take the revised test go on to college.

"It's all in the details of how it all plays out," said Rawlins, a former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Some high school and college admissions counselors said eliminating the penalty for wrong answers and making the essay optional could make the test less stressful for some students.

"It will encourage students to consider the questions more carefully and to attempt them, where before if a cursory glance at a question made it seem too complex to them, they may go ahead and skip that question," said Jeff Rickey, dean of admissions at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.

A longstanding criticism of the SAT is that students from wealthier households do better because they can afford expensive test preparation classes.

The College Board said it will partner with the nonprofit Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT. It also said every income-eligible student who takes the SAT will receive four fee waivers to apply for college, which continues an effort the College Board has had to assist low-income students.

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