In 2016, an academic revolution will take place with the College Board’s implementation of a reformed SAT. The College Board asserts that the changed test puts a “continued emphasis on reasoning alongside a clearer, stronger focus on the knowledge, skills and understandings most important for college and career readiness and success.” Students, teachers and parents alike are wondering what these new changes will entail and how they will affect scores.

Since 2005, the test has contained ten multiple-choice sections of reading comprehension and mathematics, along with one essay. Coming as a surprise to some, this will no longer be the case. The new test will be divided into an ELA section consisting of reading and writing, and vocabulary will focus on assessing context rather than difficulty. The new mathematics section will be divided into a section that allows a calculator to be used and a section that doesn’t. The essay will be optional, and an elongated time period will be given to write it. Another major difference between the new exam and the previous one is that there will be no penalty for a wrong answer, giving unsure students the freedom to guess.

Around this time last year, I was filled with angst about my first SAT experience, wondering how I would do on this infamous test. Ten weeks prior to taking the test, I signed up for a one-on-one SAT tutoring program that was held once a week. During these ten hour-and-a-half sessions, I was given a practice exam for homework every week. Needless to say, it was rigorous—but worth it. Due to this intensive preparation, a quick review session the night before I took the SAT was enough for me to feel ready. (This is what worked for me; other people may study less or more depending on their learning styles or stress levels.)

This test is no joke. Many students have high anxiety levels leading up to testing day; this included myself. Halfway through taking the test, however, a great deal of the stress I’d had beforehand had dissolved. My main focus was finishing each section within the time limit, and I could not let nerves about my overall score distract me.

In the end, I did well, but, ironically, despite all of the practice sessions and individual studying, I chose to attend College of the Holy Cross, which does not require SAT scores. Even so, I sent the scores in with my application and feel they may have had an impact on my acceptance. Arguably, it served as a standout quality to my application compared to other potential students who did not send scores.

The new SAT will suit some students’ strengths, and others may still struggle. Nevertheless, with each modification that the College Board makes, the hope is that students’ abilities are more accurately assessed. We will see if this holds true in 2016.

Did You Know?

The optional essay on the revised SAT will revert the overall highest score back to a 1600, which has not been the case since 2005. This change may benefit international students taking the SAT. A Panamanian friend of mine who attends Bentley University expressed frustration regarding the essay portion of the current SAT; she felt she was at a disadvantage because English is not her first language.