Changes to the SAT: Implications for Younger High School Students

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement (APTM) Academy allows Iowa students to take APTMclasses online. The Iowa Online AP Academy is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes. Educators can learn more here.


College Board reported in early March changes will be made to the SAT. Key changes include cutting obscure vocabulary words, ending penalization for guessing wrong, and making the essay optional. The changes will come into effect in 2016, affecting current high school freshmen.

The changes instated by David Coleman, president of the College Board, have been a long time coming—in fact, Coleman was considering an overhaul months before he officially took over as president. One of the changes that emerged from these early discussions was a reconsideration of the essay. Whereas the old essay required students to cite their own experiences or values in response to a statement—an exercise that critics have shown to be correlated more with length and number of details rather than substance—the new essay will require to analyze evidence in their response to a prompt. Another important change is that College Board will soon team with Khan Academy as a means of providing free support to students preparing to take the SAT.

The announcement acknowledges that previous changes to the SAT have been ineffective and seeks to align the test better with academic expectations in high school and college. Some critics question whether the changes go far enough and whether these changes are important in a time when colleges are becoming increasingly “test-optional” in admissions. However, a recent publication by the New York Times described the influence SAT and ACT scores can continue to have on success even after high school. For better or for worse, these scores—the significance of which have been debated for decades—sometimes act as simple screening tools for employers.

The debate will likely rage on with respect to the SAT and ACT, but for the time being, many of our college-bound school students will need to take these exams. With the changes to the SAT, we hope that the shift to more practical concepts and a collaboration with free test preparation will improve the test-taking process for our students.

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