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College Admissions: SAT Announces Biggest Changes EVER

Monday, March 10, 2014


Last week, the Collegeboard announced sweeping changes to the SAT which will take effect in 2016. The changes come at a time when SAT has been losing market share. As of 2012, the ACT surpassed the SAT as the most popular college entrance exam. Additionally, colleges have been flocking to join the Fairtest

movement which advocates SAT/ACT optional policies in college admissions. Today, more than 800 four year institutions allow students to opt out of submitting test scores during the admissions process. Who will the SAT changes affect and what can students expect? More details will be release on April 16, but here is what we know so far:

  • The class of 2017 will be the guinea pigs. Since the changes are not scheduled to roll out until the spring of 2016, students who are presently sophomores and juniors will not be taking the new test. This means that there will not be changes that affect test prep for those students.
  • Back to a 1600 scale. Although it was just a few years ago that the SAT moved to a total score of 2400 with the addition of a writing section, that’s ending as of 2016. The new test will have a Math section worth 800 points and a Reading section worth 800 points. A writing section will be optional and have a separate score—much like the ACT. Students can expect that most competitive colleges will require the writing section, since most require it for the ACT.
  • Fewer tricks. Simply put, the SAT will become more straightforward, requiring less preparation in the area of test question strategy, distractor answers and other confusing aspects of the test.
  • No penalty for wrong answers. In a move that mirrors the ACT scoring philosophy, the SAT will stop penalizing students for wrong answers. Points will only be given for correct answers. This frees students up to guess more often and may alleviate some aspects of test anxiety.
  • Adios Adipescent. Students can wave goodbye to memorizing words they will never see again. The Collegeboard says that they will focus on words that are used in college and careers, veering away from some of the exotic vocabulary that is presently on the exam.
  • A broader scope for the Reading section. Again, moving toward what appears to be closer in scope to the ACT, the SAT will incorporate reading passages that cover not just literature, but also science and history.
  • Calculator restrictions. The Math portion of the SAT will focus on: linear equations, complex functions, ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning. Calculators will be permitted only for certain parts of the math section.
  • Free help. The Collegeboard will partner with the famed online Khan Academy to offer online test prep modules. Additionally, students with financial need will be given college application fee waivers when they take the SAT.
  • Computerized option. With the advent of the new SAT, the Collegeboard will FINALLY move into the digital era. Tests will be available in both written and computerized formats.


Overall, students and parent should be optimistic about the changes. The idea that the SAT will be based more on coursework and real world applications is a positive change. However, much is unknown at this point, and it will be some time before students can try out the new SAT or PSAT to see if it is the right test for them. In the meantime, we may see even more students trying the ACT. At this time, no changes have been announced regarding SAT II Subject Tests.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.


Related Slideshow: Best Ski + Snowboard Colleges in the East

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Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

With Stowe and Sugarbush nearby, finding challenging terrain is not an issue at colleges in northern Vermont. Students at Middlebury enjoy the Snow Bowl, owned by the college, for a quick few runs when they are not up for a car ride. In less than a half hour however, they can hit the slopes at Sugarbush or Stowe. You will need to be a top student to get into Middlebury though; with an acceptance rate of just 17%, the college is among a handful of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country.

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University of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Heading north, in the picturebook city of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain, you will find the University of Vermont. Famous for producing both Alpine and Downhill Olympic skiers, UVM is a mecca for winter sports lovers. Buses head from campus to the slopes on the weekends, and students tune their skis in the dorm hallways at night. Sugarbush and Stowe are the most popular ski destinations for UVMers, but Smuggler’s Notch and Jay Peak also draw sports classes and snowboarders looking for slopes off the beaten path. UVM is different than most state schools in that 75% of students come from out-of-state, the university boasts an amazing honors college, it’s home to a ground breaking environmental studies program and a highly rated medical school.

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St. Michael's College

Colchester, VT

Nearby in Colchester, St. Michael’s is a hidden gem among Catholic colleges in New England. St. Mike’s has a warm, pretty campus with a wide variety of majors, including business. Easy access to Burlington and all the same ski areas as UVM, make St. Mike’s a great option for students wanting a small college with reasonable acceptance rates and a nurturing academic environment.

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Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

For skiers and snowboarders who can make the Ivy League cut, there is really only one college: Dartmouth. Whether you race cross country or are a downhill enthusiast, Dartmouth’s long tradition of elite athletics will ensure top notch competition. Dartmouth has their own “SkiWay”, but it’s not on campus and most students prefer the challenge of a bigger mountain. Since Dartmouth sits close to the New Hampshire/Vermont boarder, there are quite a few options for big mountain skiing, with Killington and Okemo less than 45 minutes away.

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New England College

Henniker, NH

New England College in Henniker is a tiny, ski lovers’ gem. For students who prefer a small college with very personal attention, NEC is a great choice. Those with learning differences will also find a warm and accepting environment with professor mentorships and all the tools necessary to succeed in college.  Students at NEC form a tight knit community and can often be seen heading off with boards tucked under their arms in groups each afternoon to hit the slopes at nearby Loon or Waterville.

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Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH

Plymouth State offers another option for boarders and skiers in central New Hampshire. With easy access to Waterville, Loon, Cannon and even the North Conway area, there are many choices for big mountain skiing. The college sprawls up the hillside in the quaint town of Plymouth, which is filled with shops and restaurants. With a medium size student body, reasonable acceptance rate and low tuition, Plymouth State is easily accessible for many students.


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