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Changes to SAT (2016)

A description of the 8 Key SAT changes, according to Michigan Department of Education

Michigan switched the state testing for juniors (11th grade students) from the ACT to the SAT. We also shared that the SAT was undergoing 8 key changes, which are, relevant words in context, essay analyzing a source, math that matters most, command of evidence, problems grounded in real-world contexts, Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies, the Great Global Conversation and U.S. Founding Documents, and No Penalty for Guessing. Below is a more descriptive breakdown of each key change along with important websites to visit for general SAT information and student practice.

Relevant Words in Context

Many questions in the SAT Suite focus on important, widely used words and phrases found in texts in manydifferent subjects. Some questions ask students to figure out a word’s meaning based on context. Thewords are ones that students will probably encounter in college or in the workplace long after test day. No longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their test pencils down. The redesigned exams engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom.

Essay Analyzing a Source

Students will analyze a provided source test to determine how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience through the use of evidence, reasoning, and/or stylistic and persuasive devices. They will be asked to write a cogent and clear analysis supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from the source. The redesigned SAT Essay asks students to read a passage and explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience. This task closely mirrors college writing assignments because it is asking students to analyze how the author used evidence, reasoning, and stylistic and persuasive elements. The redesigned SAT Essay is designed to support high school students and teachers as they cultivate close reading, careful analysis, and clear writing. It will promote the practice of reading a wide variety of arguments and analyzing how authors do their work as writers. The essay prompt will be the same every time the redesigned SAT is offered, but the source material students are asked to write about will be different each time.

Math that Matters Most

The Math Test focuses in-depth on three essential areas of math: Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. Problem Solving and Data Analysis is about being quantitatively literate. It includes using ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning to solve problems in science, social science, and career contexts. Heart of Algebra focuses on the mastery of linear equations and systems, which helps students develop key powers of abstraction. Passport to Advanced Math focuses on more-complex equations and the manipulation they require. Current research shows that these areas are used in a wide range of majors and careers. The redesigned SAT also includes questions on other topics in math, including the kinds of geometric and trigonometric skills that are most relevant to college and careers.

Command of Evidence

When students take the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections of the exam and the Essay section of the SAT, they will be asked to demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evident found in a wide range of sources. These sources include informational graphics, such as tables, charts, and graphs, as well as multi-paragraph passages in the areas of literature and literary nonfiction, the humanities, science, history and social studies, and on the topics about work and careers. For every passage or pair of passages students read on the Reading Test, at least one question asks them to decide which part of the text best supports the answer to the previous question. In other cases, students will be asked to integrate the information conveyed through words and graphics in order to find the best answer to a question. Questions on the Writing and Language Test will also focus on command of evidence. Students will be asked, for example, to analyze sequences of sentences or paragraphs to make sure they are logical. In other questions, students will be asked to interpret graphics and to edit a portion of the accompanying passages so that it clearly and accurately conveys the information in the graphics.

Problems Grounded in Real-World Contexts

Students will be asked questions grounded in the real world, directly related to work performed in college and career. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section includes questions on literature and literary nonfiction, but also features charts, graphs, and passages like the ones students are likely to encounter in science, social science, and other majors and careers. Questions on the Writing and Language Test ask students to do more than correct errors; they ask students to edit, revise, and improve texts from the humanities, history, social science, science, and career contexts. The Math section features multistep applications to solve problems in science, social science, career scenarios, and other real-life situations. The test sets up a scenario and asks several questions that give students the opportunity to dig in and model it mathematically.

Analysis in Science and in History/Social Studies

When students take the SAT assessment, they will be asked to apply their reading, writing, language and math knowledge and skills to answer questions in science, history, and social studies contexts. In this way, the assessment will call on the same sorts of knowledge and skills that students will use in college, in their jobs, and throughout their lives to make sense of recent discoveries, political developments, global events, and health and environmental issues. Students will encounter challenging texts and informational graphics that pertain to the aforementioned issues and topics in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Questions will require them to read and comprehend texts, revise texts to be consistent with data presented through texts and graphics and solve problems grounded in science and social science contexts.

The Great Global Conversation and U.S. Founding Documents

The U.S. Founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers, have helped to inspire a conversation that continues to this day about the nature of civic life. Authors, speakers and thinkers from the United States and around the world, including Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Nelson Mandela, and Mohandas Gandhi, have broadened and deepened the conversation around such vital matters as freedom, justice, and human dignity. Every time students take a College Board assessment, they will encounter a passage from the text from this global conversation. In this way, the assessments will inspire a close reading of these rich, meaningful, often profound texts, not only as a way to develop valuable college and career readiness skills but also as an opportunity to reflect on and deeply engage with issues and concerns central to informed citizens.

No Penalty for Guessing

The College Board Assessments will not deduct points for incorrect answers. Students will earn points for the questions they answer correctly. Students are able to give their best answer to every question because there is no advantage to leaving questions blank.

Helpful SAT websites to visit:

Student practice

SAT information (click on the new SAT tab)