The new SAT has been on the minds of high school students and parents ever since news of the redesign broke last year. In my conversations with them, I have noticed a real lack of information about the new test. After hearing plenty of rumors and conjecture about the changes being made, the reasons for these changes and the implications for potential test-takers, I decided to write the following three-part guide to set the record straight for high school students who are currently planning for standardized testing.
Part I will cover the reasons behind the overhaul, Part II the major changes to the test, while the final installment will focus on important considerations for those planning to take the test.

Part I: Why is the test changing?

1. To address criticism that SAT results do not correlate with college readiness
Critics of the SAT have long argued that the test is an inadequate measure of high school students’ classroom learning and, ultimately, their readiness for the college environment. In fact, in recent years, an increasing number of universities have opted to adopt test-optional admissions policies, citing studies which show that high school grade point average is a much more accurate predictor of college success than standardized test scores. There is little doubt that the SAT, in its current format, focuses on general ability or aptitude, rather than curriculum mastery. Last year, David Coleman, the President of the College Board, the nonprofit corporation that develops and administers the SAT, finally addressed these criticisms by announcing the launch of the redesigned SAT in March 2016. “No longer will the SAT stand apart from the work of teachers in their classrooms,” he said. As such, the new SAT is expected to feature more questions with real-world relevance.

2. To address criticism that the SAT is an unfair, elitist exam
Many detractors go a step further by saying that what the test really gauges is a student’s socioeconomic standing. Indeed,

the results of a study from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) show that students from the wealthiest families outscored those from the poorest by just under 400 points. Given that the SAT is largely divorced from classroom content this is hardly surprising, as achieving a high score on the test requires most students to make a substantial commitment to preparing for it outside of school. In its current format, the test has fostered a culture of aggressive test preparation among affluent populations, not to mention an enormous and highly profitable test prep industry. It is no wonder, then, that students from lower income families have a distinct disadvantage, due to the fact that they do not have the free time and financial resources to master the SAT’s notoriously obscure and intentionally confusing questions. By aligning the new SAT closely with the
Common Core standards
, which aim to ensure consistent educational standards across the United States, the College Board hopes to create a more democratic exam that, in the
words of Coleman
, “makes it clear that the road to success is not last-minute tricks or cramming.”

3. To respond to market pressures
The change in the test might well be due to the SAT’s loss of market share in recent times.
Use of the SAT has declined
in 29 US states over the past seven years, a shift that would have sent alarm bells ringing at the College Board. The declines in SAT test-takers exceeded 20% in 19 of those states, with the ACT finally surpassing the SAT in total usage for the first time in 2012. Furthermore, with a growing number of reputable institutions, like Wake Forest University and American University, instituting test-optional admissions policies, the College Board likely has legitimate fears that the SAT is losing its relevance in the American educational landscape. Since the ACT has always been better aligned with Common Core standards and classroom learning in general, the College Board’s response is now vital to its long-term survival.