Changes to SAT will align with Common Core standards

By Ava

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) {}Essay optional. No penalties for wrong answers. The SAT college entrance exam is undergoing sweeping revisions.

Changes in the annual test that millions of students take will also do away with some vocabulary words such as "prevaricator" and "sagacious" in favor of words more commonly used in school and on the job.

College Board officials said Wednesday the update - the first since 2005 - is needed to make the exam better representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward. The test should offer "worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles," said College Board President David Coleman in remarks prepared for delivery at an event in Austin, Texas.

The Spring semester in a high school counselors office is typically a busy place. Summerville High counselor Pat Toliver says she goes over applications just about every day and now she's tackling questions about the new SAT.

"Students will still need to prepare for the test. I just think the preparation will be more relevant to them," said Toliver. {}

She says high schools are still digesting the changes proposed by the College Board. Those changes include questions in line with the Common Core curriculum, making the essay portion optional and dropping the tough vocabulary in the verbal section.

"[It] has been a big issue for some students, moving to more usable terms, not so much everyday terms, but terms that students would know, students would encounter verses terms that are more obscure," says Toliver.

Tim Jantzi has been in the SAT test preparation business for 27 years. He says Common Core is the way of the future, but it's a mistake to dumb down the vocabulary section.

"There's a lot of political pressure on people that make tests, and there's a lot of pressure on College Board and there always has been, that they're discriminating and the test discriminates against low-income people, and so the vocabulary thing, is just another thing that there trying to assure these people that they're not the meanies that everybody says they are," saidJantzi. {}

Jantzi says in the past the College Board has lost ground to the ACT.{}

He says aligning with Common Core is a way for the SAT to survive. He says students also won't be penalized for guessing, much like the ACT. {}Jantzi says his business of test preparation will still thrive.

"All we have to do is be able to see what the new questions are, and within a few, months we'll be ready of even a few weeks," he said.

These are the first SAT upgrades since 2005 when the essay portion was added and analogy questions were removed. There have been other notable changes to the test, such as in 1994 when antonym questions were removed and calculators were allowed for the first time. The test was first used in 1926.

The SAT was taken last year by 1.6 million students. It has historically been more popular on the coasts, while the other popular standardized college entrance exam, the ACT, dominated the central U.S. But the ACT overtook the SAT in overall use in 2012, in part because it is taken by almost every junior in 13 states as part of the states' testing regimen. Last year, the ACT said it would begin offering computer-based testing in 2015.


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