The Writing section is going away! Rather, it is being combined with Critical Reading to make one hybrid section being called the “Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language Test”. And bye-bye mandatory essay–on the re-designed 2016 SAT it becomes optional. Why?
Since 2005 when the current 2400-point test was introduced, more and more colleges have moved away from evaluating it anyway. They report preferring to assess students’ common app and other admissions essays as predictors of readiness for college-level writing rather than the currently requisite SAT essay.
So, what does this mean in terms of scoring?
- The new test’s scoring has a perfect score of 1,600.
- The Critical Reading and Writing sections will be combined, for a total weight of 800 points out of 1600, not 1600 out of 2400.
- Math will comprise 50% of the overall SAT score, not one-third.
- This 17% increase in emphasis on the math requirement for the overall score will not be great news for many students whose strength lies in their English and humanities skill sets.
- This does, however, bode well for math geniuses and many students who speak English as their second language. Trends show students coming to U.S. universities from outside America hitting perfect math scores more frequently than they are able to do so in Critical Reading or Writing.
For those who do opt to take the essay portion, there will be focus on a different approach compared to previous versions of the test, being required to demonstrate what is being called “mastery of evidence”. They will be asked to evaluate a source text provided that will establish how the author of the text creates an argument to convince an audience by means of the use of reasoning and evidence.
Whereas in the past, students could prepare a few of their own source arguments for body paragraphs–for example, historical events or literary classics–now they will soon need to rely upon their own capacity to accurately assess and diagnose authorial strategies in an essay on an unforeseeable topic.
According to Karin Klein, an LA Times Editorial Writer who trained as an SAT reader/scorer in 2005, she noticed logical inconsistencies in student responses that were not penalized. “Nor does it matter if there’s any truth to the example used. So if kids tell you (and they do) that revealing secrets staves off insanity, just suspend all critical thinking and go with it.”
English teachers fall into two camps on this change. Some say the new SAT essay section will help high school students develop meticulous analysis and unambiguous writing. It will encourage the practice of reading and learning of wide range of associative arguments and evaluating how authors perform as writers. Linear rhetorical skills are key to many careers, no doubt.
Others, however, see the potential downside to this will be a dearth of incentive for teens to blaze unique trails of thought and more creative expression. What might fairly be called analysis paralysis could curtail the more innovative writing options and extrapolations of earlier essays.
Each change on the new SAT brings both pros and cons, and information is the beginning of preparation. Wisdom rarely hides between answers “A” and “E” on a scantron page, but until standardized tests are abolished once and for all, parents are wise to help their teens prepare for the new hurdles they will need to leap in order to achieve college admissions success.
To read more about why the old essay needed to go, see Klein’s insightful “How I Gamed the SAT” http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-op-sat3apr03-story.html#page=1