The SAT college admission test will no longer require a timed essay, will dwell less on fancy vocabulary and will return to the familiar 1600-point scoring scale in a major overhaul intended to open doors to higher education for students who are now shut out.
The second redesign of the SAT in this century — announced Wednesday and scheduled to go into effect when today’s high school freshmen take it in 2016 — aims to strip many of the tricks out of a test currently administered to more than 1.5 million students in every high school graduating class. It also comes with a College Board pledge to offer new test-preparation tutorials for free online, enabling students to bypass pricey SAT-prep classes that previously were available mostly to affluent families looking to give their children an edge.
Out in the redesign will be “SAT words” that have long prompted anxious students to cram with flashcards, as the test will now focus on vocabulary words that are widely used in college and career. The College Board hasn’t yet cited examples of words deemed too obscure, but “punctilious,” “phlegmatic” and “occlusion” are three tough ones in a College Board study guide.
Out, too, will be a much-reviled rule that deducts a quarter point for each wrong answer to multiple-choice questions, deterring random guesses. Also gone: The 2400-point scale begun nine years ago with the debut of the required essay. The essay will become optional.
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