The impetus for the new SAT appears to have come from several concerns about the existing college admission exam: 1) pricing and accessibility for underserved students, 2) unfair advantages for students whose families can afford to buy test prep, 3) adjusting text components to align with the Common Core and “the skills really needed for college,” 4) losing market share to the ACT, and, 5) eliminating the “tricks” that were part of doing well on the test.
Many professionals had come to feel that strong SAT scores could reflect “gaming” and prep, rather than real learning and skills that would truly indicate college readiness. The essay component remained a problem in the existing test: it rewarded length over content and allowed for incorrect facts as long as correct structure was preserved. Most colleges never used the essay score as part of the admissions decision; it only provided a unedited writing sample to be compared with a perhaps adult-polished application essay. The new SAT will feature an essay which asks for a specific response to a source document, to be scored on its use of supporting evidence, logic, style, and developed point of view.
Spring of 2016 will reveal the new test. Current high school freshmen can focus less on memorization of arcane vocabulary words, and more on the sort of words they will actually need to know in college, like “empirical” and “synthesis.”