The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Everything You Need to Know About the New SAT


With the threat of a brand-new SAT looming over their heads, high schoolers all around the nation have been sent into a frenzy, asking numerous questions that need answers: Is the new SAT going to be harder? Should I just take the ACT instead? If the essay section is optional, should I still do it? Why did Snow White think it was acceptable to just walk into a stranger’s house and start cleaning?

Alright, maybe not that last one, but you get the point – the College Board has a lot of people scared. Well, never fear, readers. The Fourcast is here to answer all the questions you may have.

What are the main differences with the new SAT?

According to Kaplan Test Prep, the main differences are: there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers, the essay is now optional, the essay will now be graded on accuracy of facts as well as quality of writing and there will be no more sentence completions in the reading sections. We can also say goodbye to the infamous “SAT words.”

David Coleman, president of the College Board, said during the announcement of the new SAT that they’re getting rid of archaic vocabulary words nobody uses and instead testing students on words more common in everyday life – for example, words such as synthesis, distill and transform rather than words like membranous, prevaricate and chicanery.

However, don’t be fooled – this doesn’t mean the test is easier. Henry Price, who is a teacher, tutor and trainer for the Princeton Review, warns against those misconceptions.

“It’s going to be hard in different ways,” Price said. “Even if they don’t test [archaic vocabulary words,] if you don’t have a good vocabulary, you’re not going to understand what you’re reading.”

Why are these changes being made?

The College Board is making some of these changes to benefit the students and college admissions, but for the most part, this is a business move. In 2012, the ACT overtook the SAT as the most popular college admissions exam for the first time ever. FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, reported that same year that test-takers have come to see the ACT as more student-friendly than the SAT due to the ACT’s optional essay and no penalty rule for incorrect answers.

By changing their test, the College Board is trying to regain popularity with students.

“The big change that the SAT is so proud of, to be honest, is just that they’re looking more like the ACT,” Price said.

Should the class of 2017 take the ACT instead to be safe?

No one but the College Board truly knows what the new SAT is going to be like, but Hockaday’s Director of College Counseling Carol Wasden assures us that the SAT is not unsafe to take.

“I think any student who did well on the [new] PSAT could be expected to do well on the redesigned SAT,” Wasden said. “I don’t think the [new] SAT is going to be a screaming disaster.”

If you are in the class of 2017 and are worried about which test to take, talk to your college counselor.

The essay is now optional. Should I still do it?

It’s completely up to you, but it’s best to take it just to be safe.

“We definitely will recommend that students take the writing section,” Wasden said. Not all schools will require the writing section, but “what we don’t want is for a student to get her testing done junior year, then get to senior year and have colleges on her list that need the writing portion.”

Price agrees that students should opt to take the writing portion.

“It’s not going to hurt anything,” Price said.

The new SAT is out of 1600 rather than 2400. How does this change things?

Don’t worry – it doesn’t change anything. The only reason it’s out of 1600 is because the essay is now optional, and the essay, which is out of 800 points, will be graded separately.

Anything else?

While it is important to prepare for the test as much as you can, it is also essential to remember that the test isn’t the entire application. Johns Hopkins University Director of Admissions Ellen Kim said that colleges look at more than just the test score.

“A strong score is never going to hurt you,” Kim said. “[But] the test score itself is not going to be the deciding factor. We’re always going to look at how everything comes together.”

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