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The current version of the SAT has been around for nearly ten years. If you took the test before the change – like everyone here at GEP – then you would know that to get a perfect score on the test, you needed to score a 1600. Why is that? Because there was no Writing section! Before The College Board (the company that creates and administers the test) added the Writing section to the SAT (and also changed the name of the test from SAT I and SAT II to SAT and SAT Subjects, respectively), there were only two sections: Critical Reading and Math. Each section, then as now, was scored out of 800 points. Adding the Writing section allowed for an additional 800 points to be added to the score, which made getting a perfect score increase to its current 2400 status.
Starting in March 2016, The College Board is reverting back to the old scoring out of 1600. And better yet for high school students (and especially international high school students), the changes will also impact the content of the test and make it “easier” than before, according to Shaan Patel, founder of SAT-prep company 2400 Expert. Here’s why:
1. No Obscure Vocabulary
The new version of the SAT will be easier because there will no longer be obscure vocabulary to trip up test takers, Patel told Business Insider. High school students will no longer have to study massive vocabulary lists with obscure words.
Instead, The College Board made the measured decision to focus on vocabulary words that students will encounter on a regular basis in college and in future jobs. On the College Board’s website they reference their decision saying, “No longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their test pencils down.” This is something all international students will enjoy as their English skills will be better matched with what they have learned in school and put them on a more even playing ground with native English speakers.
2. Fewer Answer Choices
The new format will have four answer choices, rather than five, as the exam does today. This update will benefit test takers in two highly important ways, according to Patel.
First, test takers will save time, as they will have one less answer choice to read through on each question. Second, test takers have better probability of getting the question right as they have a 25%, rather than 20%, chance of choosing the right answer.
3. More Time
Patel says one of the biggest complaints students have with the current version of the SAT is that there is not enough time to take the exam. That will change with the new version of the test.
There will be more time per section on the new version, and students will even have double the amount of time to write their essay. Additionally, the new 1600 version of the test will have 16 fewer questions that the old version.
4. No Penalty for Guessing
On the previous version of the SAT, students were penalized for guessing the wrong answer. For that reason, Patel’s test prep company used to provide students with strategies to know when they should guess and answer or leave a question blank. But the new system doesn’t penalize students for choosing the wrong answer. If you’re taking the new SAT, Patel advises you to make sure to answer every single question.
5. Writing Section Is Optional
The new SAT will still have a writing section available, but it will be optional and scored separately from the rest of the test. This is why the test will revert back to the original 1600 point scoring system of before. Most students will decide not to take it, especially given that most universities and colleges never considered it in their review of test scores of applicants as they found no real value of it to predict writing success. Instead, they preferred to focus on their school specific essays to not only learn more about applicants, but to evaluate their writing abilities.