A new version of the SAT makes writing optional and reflects student coursework

To the casual observer, the SAT looks the same — questions on math and English, an essay, a set amount of time to finish each question.

But the college entrance exam has gotten a makeover. High school students are taking a new version of the SAT, which incorporates the first changes to the test since 2005. March 5 marked the first national testing date when students could take the new SAT.

The nearly four-hour exam drops to three hours if students decline the now-optional writing portion. Critical reading and writing have now been combined into a single evidence-based writing and reading portion. The range of possible scores changed, as well.

Students, meanwhile, no longer get penalized for guessing.

While the SAT did not change because of Common Core state standards and other recent state standards adoptions, designers researched just what was changing in the classrooms to better align the test with what students know and needed to know.

“We know many students went through similar exercises,” said Scott Hill, vice president of the College Board’s western regional office. The College Board organization runs the SAT. “It’s not surprising them what they experience in the classroom is what they experience in the SAT.”

Next page: What students are saying about the new SAT

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