Beginning in March 2016 the format of the SAT will be changing. In many ways it will be similar to the ACT. Instead of many short (25 minute) sections, there will now be longer sections – one reading section of 65 minutes, a writing and language section of 35 minutes, a math, no calculator, section of 25 minutes and a math with calculator section of 55 minutes. The total possible score will return to 1600, after 11 years of 2400. The writing section will now combine with the reading section for 800 possible points and the two math sections will also count for 800 points. The essay is optional and the score for the essay will not count towards the 1600 possible points. Other changes in line with the ACT, are the four multiple choice options rather than the current five, and the removal of any penalty for a wrong answer.
My initial reaction to the changes is positive for the new math with no calculator section. As a math teacher, I am always saddened to see the lack of basic arithmetic skills and number sense of many students due to extensive use of calculators, especially at a young age. Numbers are the foundation of math and the lack of skill with numbers definitely diminishes students’ ability in higher math and also their enjoyment of math.
In my first look at the reading section, I’ve noticed that it has become much more similar to the ACT. I don’t think this was a move in the right direction. Whereas questions used to require more thoughtful analysis, they now require a strong short term memory. Questions are more simple but the material must be remembered, as they don’t tell you which lines to look at as much as they used to. Now it is necessary to read the whole essay and retain as much as the details and information as possible. It is definitely testing a different skill, not as creative or thoughtful. Speed is now more of an issue on the reading, as it has always been on the ACT.