SAT format changes coming in 2016

By Matt Daray

Prospective college students may have to adjust to a new standardized test format.

College Board President and CEO David Coleman announced March 6 the SAT is changing from its current overall score of 2400 to 1600. The test will include three sections: reading and writing, mathematics and an essay section graded separately from the other two sections. The new format is scheduled for a spring 2016 release.

Carly Lindauer, senior director of external communications for the College Board, said in an email the format change will not make the test easier for students but will help prepare high school students for college level curriculum and beyond.


“The redesigned SAT is based on the few things that evidence show matter most for success in college and career, and it will reflect and reinforce the key skills and knowledge that students are learning in their best courses,” she said. “Our objective with the redesign is to make the exam useful by ensuring that everything students encounter when they take it is widely applicable to their work in college and career training opportunities.”

Lindauer said the changes made for 2016 affect the clarity of the test so students will have a greater understanding of the material.

She said full specifications of the exam and extensive samples of all sections will be available April 16, and Khan Academy, a non-profit education website, will provide free work samples of the test as well.

Changes are rare but not uncommon for the SAT.

The test, which was first used in 1926, originally gave takers 90 minutes to answer 315 questions ranging over several sections such as definitions, classifications, logical interface and paragraph reading.

Since then, changes affecting the test’s score, categories and test taking requirements changed 13 times including the 2016 changes.

Katharine Suski, director of Undergraduate Admissions, said the overall change of the test will most likely not affect admissions at SIU.


“A student’s standardized test scores, ACT or SAT, are just part of our holistic review of that student’s admission file,” she said in an email. “These scores are considered along with high school coursework, as well as other factors.”

Most of the students who apply to the university usually take the ACT over the SAT, Lindauer said.

“Additionally, a fairly small percentage of SIU students take the SAT compared to the ACT,” she said. “I do not anticipate any change to the number of admissions to the university based on changes to the SAT test.”

Suski said the test change would probably not affect the quality of students the university recruits as the test measures what a student knows. She said some changes, such as commanding of evidence and analyzing a source essay, may encourage students to better understand the process behind selecting their answers instead of finding a system for selecting the best answer.

Reid Shipley, principal of Centralia High School, said the SAT changes would not affect most Midwest high school students because the ACT is used more often in the central United States.

“Most students don’t take the SAT,” he said. “Most take the ACT unless a specific school they are specifically attending would require them to take the SAT. Mostly Midwest – and especially Illinois – states and university schools around here accept the ACT.”

Shipley said the ACT is used more often because most Midwest universities use ACT scores for enrolling students and every student is provided at least one free ACT exam.

Rich Mertens, principal of Belleville West High School, said his school focuses on the ACT but has some students taking the SAT and hopes their material is similar.

“Some kids taking it are looking to go to east coast schools. Most of them require it,” he said. “I would think they’d be in the same boat as all the other kids taking that test. It’s just dropping the scale from 2400 to 1600 and three tests. They just have to make sure they’re prepared for that and hopefully that’s what we’re doing: preparing them for the ACT. Hopefully it gears somewhat with the SAT.”

Mertens said Belleville provides ACT preparation groups and activities, but does not provide SAT groups because only a handful of students take the test. He said there are no plans to include SAT preparation activities because the number of students taking the test is very small and unlikely to grow.

Matt Daray can be reached at [email protected]on Twitter at M_D_Daray or 536-3311 ext. 254.