Changes to the SAT have some local school officials cheering that the questions on the exam could start to resemble what high schools actually teach.
But even with the proposed improvements, including more relevant vocabulary and asking students to identify the evidence they used to answer previous questions, some say the test does not predict how students will perform in college and remain skeptical the tests measure all that much.
The College Board announced on Wednesday a range of changes to the test and a partnership with the nonprofit Khan Academy to offer a test preparation course at no charge to students.
The SAT, a three-part standardized test that includes math, reading comprehension and an essay, has been a staple of college preparation for generations. Recently, many colleges have moved away from using SAT scores as the definitive metric for admissions, but still include them as part of the whole application package.
Among the changes is dropping the penalty for a wrong answer. No points will be awarded for an incorrect answer, but a quarter point will not be deducted.
Arcane and esoteric vocabulary words will be eliminated in favor of words that are relevant to their high school education and potential careers in college and the workforce, but have various meetings depending on usage.
Reading comprehension sections will include questions asking students to identify a quote or passage to support their answer to the previous question.
The math section will include algebra, functions and complex equations, and problem solving and data analysis.
The essay, which was added to the test in 2005, will become optional, meaning the scoring system will revert to the previous high of 1600 – 800 points each for the math and reading sections.
The changes are to go into effect in the spring of 2016.
“It seems like they’re making an effort to make the SAT a little more of a representative exam for what the high school experience is,” said Ted Lombardi, principal of the Humanities and Leadership Development high school in Lawrence. “Obviously they see the writing on the wall that many colleges have done away with the SAT as the primary component. The move was a little out of necessity.”