Goodbye to the SAT Writing Section

Big changes afoot for the SAT! The College Board is now dropping the writing portion from the exam, bringing the highest total score back to 1600 where it belongs.

And that's not all! According to the Washington Post, the test is getting quite an overhaul in the following ways:

  • A shift from testing knowledge of fancy vocab to words that are commonly used in College and career (e.g. synthesis). That means know more feverishly making flashcards with all five definitions of phlegmatic
  • No more quarter-point penalty for wrong answers; guessing is now in!
  • College Board is also teaming up to provide free test prep so that it isn't rich students who are dominating on this test, while lower income students fall behind

What's the rationale behind these changes? It's to level the playing field, as well as to protect the bottom line, as more students gravitate towards the ACT, while more colleges have made the test optional for admission:


With these and other changes — such as asking students to analyze documents key to the nation's founding — College Board officials said they want to make the SAT more accessible, straightforward and grounded in what is taught in high school. Experts say SAT scores have long been strongly correlated to family income, a dynamic the College Board hopes to shake up. Its initiative comes as the 88-year-old test in recent years has slipped behind the rival ACT — a shorter exam with an optional essay — in total student customers.

More about test prep companies that charge thousands of dollars to give students an edge:

Coleman said the New York-based organization will team with the nonprofit Khan Academy, which delivers free tutorials in math and other subjects via a popular Web site of the same name, to provide free SAT prep for the world.

"The College Board cannot stand by while some test-prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child's success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching," Coleman said. "If we believe that assessment must be a force for equity and excellence, it's time to shake things up."

This all sounds like good news, although I'm bitter that the writing section was instituted in the first place, right when I took the SAT. Better late than never though, if this gets a wider swath of students into college. Now if only we could do something about rising tuition costs.

Image via Shutterstock.