Entrance exam changing scoring and making essays optional

When current high school freshmen take the SAT tests in 2016 and beyond they will encounter a redesigned test focused on eight key changes according to College Board, a not-for-profit organization in charge of the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program,

  1. Relevant words in context

  2. Command of evidence

  3. Essay analyzing a source

  4. Focus on math that matters most

  5. Problems grounded in real-world contexts

  6. Analysis in science and history/social studies

  7. Founding documents and great global conversation

  8. No penalty for wrong answers

Along with the eight key changes the scoring system has been changed from a possible maximum score of 2400—800 for math, 800 for reading comprehension and 800 for writing—to 1600 with the essay section of the test being optional.

The newest changes negate some of the previous updates made to the test in 2005 when the essay section was introduced and the maximum score was increased from 1600 to 2400.

"The 2016 SAT is much more involved than just a return to the old scoring system," said John O'Hare, Lake Travis ISD director of Secondary Academic Services. "Many of these changes are more closely aligned with the Texas Assesment of Knowledge and Skills and LTISD's current curriculum."

O'Hare said he hopes tighter curriculum alignment will result in assessment that more accurately measures what students have learned in their high school courses and will result in improved scores for LTISD students.

Jeff Pilchiek, director of guidance and career counseling at Westlake High School, said he believes the changes will not have a large effect on college-bound students at the high school, and the updates will move the SAT to a more subject based learning test.

"I've watched the [SAT] test for 30 years, and the pendulum swings. Each year I watch the percentage of students taking the ACT test rise, and I attribute that to our students and teachers wanting a test that is more subject-based," he said.

For the first time Eanes ISD chose to give all Westlake High School juniors the ACT test for free April 23. However, Pilchiek said there is a push among some schools to get rid of college-readiness testing altogether.

"I don't try to push the kids to one test or another," he said. "But I do think the Westlake students will rise to the challenges of the new test."

College Board announced the SAT redesign in 2013 and said the new test will focus on the core knowledge and skills that are shown to be the most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.

"Our district regularly reviews its curriculum in order to make sure we are offering quality learning experiences for our students that will promote college- and career-readiness," O'Hare said. "We will continue to look for more guidance from the College Board on the new SAT, and we will incorporate this guidance into our ongoing conversations."

LTISD offers students a semester-long SAT preparatory course during the school day and will adjust the curriculum leading up to the 2016 changes, O'Hare said.

EISD said it encourages all sophomores and juniors to take the Pre-SAT test held in October.

Less than half of the students who take the SAT are college-ready, according to the College Board website.

College Board also announced it will also be more transparent in order to take the mystery out of the exam, providing a full SAT blueprint before the first administering of the test in spring 2016.