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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Revamped SAT test debuts Saturday

College hopefuls across the country will be taking a revamped SAT test Saturday with a sharper focus on reading.

The test has become more complex, said Steven Gering, Spokane Public Schools chief academic officer.

“It’s not an easier exam,” he said. “There are longer reading passages. It’s more complex.”

The penalty for guessing on answers has been removed, vocabulary words have been integrated into reading passages, and the test score changed from 2400 to 1600, Gering said. Instead of four sections, the new test will have three: reading and writing, math and an optional essay. The test also is available on a computer rather than just the traditional print version.

“The College Board removed it (the penalty for guessing) mostly because of student reaction to it,” said Michael Boothroyd, the executive director of college admissions for Kaplan Test Prep, a test preparation company.

Overall the test focuses on contextualization over memorization with even the math section integrating more reading and critical thinking skills. According to the College Board, the test attempts to gauge college readiness more accurately while measuring high school retention.

Boothroyd said the test will be more difficult for slow readers or people who don’t like reading. Another big change, he said, is the essay portion, which has been reworked. The old essay was a short, simple prompt. The score was based on writing style and not the content of the essay, according to Boothroyd.

“In fact you could be wrong about facts and still get a good score,” he said. “Students are going to find this test to be very rigorous.”

The new test puts more emphasis on analyzing and discussing a passage in depth. The essay portion of the test is optional, but the College Board encourages students to check to see if colleges they are applying to require an essay.

Most Spokane Public Schools students taking the test will do so in April. The district pays for all juniors to take the test.

Gering encourages students to use services like the Khan Academy, which provides customized SAT preparation for free. The collaboration between the Khan Academy and the College Board is designed to help students from poorer families who may not be able to afford test preparation services used by students from more affluent families.

“We want to make sure all of our kids have multiple exposures to it,” Gering said. “We want to make sure all of our kids have the same advantages as the kids who are paying $500 for a test prep.”

Additionally, the College Board is offering up to four college application fee waivers to qualifying students. Nationwide more than 2,000 colleges participate in the fee waiver program.

According to the College Board, most universities will accept scores from the old and new SAT tests, but they encourage students to check with colleges in advance. The SAT test last changed in 2005.