Five Things the Redesigned SAT Got Right


While students who just took the SAT wait a few excruciating months for their scores, let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the College Board’s 2016 SAT changes. We believe some key logistical and pedagogical elements of the redesign are good for both students and teachers. Here’s why.

First, let's do the numbers...



What the College Board got right...

1. Logistical changes add clarity to a stressful day.

Students are happy to say goodbye to that fifth multiple choice option, and they won’t miss the ambiguity of wondering whether to “guess” or leave a question blank. So a few of those logistical changes get high marks immediately.

2. The focus is on real vocabulary.sat

Gone are the days of taking expensive courses to memorize lists of obscure vocabulary words completely out of context. Some questions even ask students to figure out a common word’s meaning based on its context.

3. All reading is evidence-based reading, and data analysis is a form of reading.

In the past, SAT reading questions often focused on identifying details in isolation. As the name suggests, the new Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section ask students to identify evidence as they answer questions across disciplines. Some reading passages address literature, but many topics focus on science and social studies. In parts of the Math section, students read a graph or table and then revise an associated passage to make the text consistent with the data presented. Text and number literacy work together just as they need to in the real world.

4. Correct answers are not the end of the story.

After students answer an interpretive question, the following question will sometimes ask them to explain why they chose that answer. This rewards the highest level of authentic comprehension. These questions often take this form: “Which choice provides the best evidence for the previous question?”

5. Primary-source documents are relevant again!

You remember those random paragraphs on obscure topics like language acquisition, the rationale for breeding endangered animals in zoos, or (worst of all) those rambling personal narrative passages the SAT used for reading comprehension questions in the past? In the new SAT every Reading section will include at least one primary-source document from American History. Founding Documents like Federalist Papers or The Declaration of Independence are particular favorites so Hamilton and Jefferson are back! Most students have already encountered these documents in their regular courses, so it's easy to be fully prepared the day of the test

(psst: Our Explore! Primary Sources tool is a great resource for helping students read and interpret primary sources. Check out this text and audio clip of  Barbara Jordan's famous 1974 speech to Congress, highlighted in the College Board sample question.)


About Author

Molly Farrow

Molly Farrow taught high school history for 11 years in Wake County and Durham County. She also taught at the Taipei American School in Taiwan. She received a M.A.T. degree from the University of North Carolina and a B.S. degree in Political Science from Wake Forest University. Outside work, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and their dog, Dante.

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