New SAT Format Preferred by Most Students

This past Saturday students had a chance to take the new SAT exam, and a post-test survey revealed that most students preferred the new format, found the reading test easier than they expected and considered the test items reflective of what they were learning in school.

The College Board, which runs the college entrance exam program, conducted a survey of almost 8,100 students who completed the SAT on March 5, the first day it was formally available, and compared results to the same questions given to test-takers in 2015.

Most students reported a positive experience:

  • 7 in 10 students (71 percent) said the exam "reflected" what they've been learning in school;
  • Students said they preferred the new format of the SAT over the previous version by a margin of six to one;
  • Three-quarters of respondents reported that the reading test was just what they expected or easier; and
  • Almost 6 in 10 (59 percent) considered the math section relevant for what they would need to know to be successful in college and career.

This is the first academic year in which the College Board offered a free test-preparation resource, in partnership with non-profit video instruction site Khan Academy. The two organizations reported that more than 900,000 students used the online service, which launched in June 2015. That included nearly half of the students who took the SAT on its opening day.

However, a fee-based exam prep company teamed up with a magazine for teenage girls and found that many students who might have tackled the SAT are also sitting it out for now. The Princeton Review and Seventeen Magazine said that ACT enrollments were actually up by 40 percent this year over last year due to "nervousness about the new SAT." The Princeton Review offers test prep for both college entrance exams.

From a 300-student online survey conducted this weekend, half of the students who had previously taken the SAT found the new version "easier." By far, students said they felt that the math sections where they weren't allowed to use a calculator were the toughest parts.

Jonathan Chiu, Princeton Review's content director for the SAT and ACT, advised students to take the test as early and often as they can, in order to have the chance to improve their score. For those who took the March test, he suggested thinking about what proved hardest and focusing on that specific area in their preparations before tackling the exam again.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.