SAT to drop essay and return to top score of 1,600

March 7, 2014

By The Korea Times Los Angeles staff

The SAT is getting its first facelift since 2005.

Beginning in 2016, essays will be optional, the highest score will be lowered back to 1,600 and penalties for wrong answers will no longer in place, according to the College Board.

The news comes after ACT test-takers outnumbered those who took the SAT by 100,000 in 2013. Meanwhile, more than $1 billion is spent on the SAT test-preparation industry.

For upcoming SAT-takers, calculators will now only be allowed during a set time, and vocabulary words deemed too obscure for use in school or in the workplace will be banned.

David Coleman, College Board president, said at the SXSW Conference Wednesday that the redesign was in part due to concerns that the test’s current focus on advanced “SAT words” rewards the privileged who have access to expensive coaching and test prep over those who can only learn from the classroom.

According to FairTest, college-bound seniors from high-income families averaged higher scores — 1,714 among those from families with an income of $200,000+ to 1,326 among those from families with incomes $0 to $20,000 — in 2013.

In 2013, the test had been comprised of three sections — critical reading, math, essays — which were each worth 800 points, totaling 2,400.

The new version’s sections will be Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math and the optional Essay. The total possible top score will again be 1,600.