David Coleman

College Board President David Coleman attends an announcement event Wednesday in Austin, where officials announced updates for the SAT college entrance exam.

Eric Gay

Students who are high school freshmen this year will be the first to take the new SAT college entrance exam, which no longer requires essays and doesn’t deduct points for missed answers.

The College Board announced the changes to the annual test Wednesday at an event in Austin. Last year, 1.7 million students nationwide took the SAT; this year’s ninth-graders will be the first to take the new test when it launches their junior year in 2016.

“The SAT and exams like it should never be used alone to make decisions about a person’s life and future,” said David Coleman, president of the College Board. “We hope this new exam gives all students a clear path toward productive practice rather than destructive anxiety.”

School districts are taking the SAT changes into consideration as they prepare students for the college entrance exam.

“We subcontract for the SAT prep, so there will likely be changes to align with the new testing,” said Robert Muller, Killeen Independent School District superintendent.

According to a report from the district, 51.7 percent of seniors took the SAT during the 2012-2013 school year. In Copperas Cove, 64 percent of seniors and 61.4 percent of juniors took the SAT, according to the Texas Education Agency’s Texas Academic Performance Report for school year 2012-2013.

Katie Ryan, deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction at the Copperas Cove Independent School District, said the district doesn’t have specific classes that prepare students for the exam. Instead, teachers incorporate SAT preparation into all of their classes.

Ryan said the new SAT will better determine college success and readiness than the old one.

“We are hopeful that the end-of-course exams that are required for graduation and the SAT exam have a better alignment and match each other a little bit more closely,” Ryan said. “We are optimistic that the new SAT and the higher standards are going to put in place a more rigorous test and this should help colleges and individuals better determine future college success for a student, so we think that is a good thing with the new SAT.”

Coleman said many students who are worried about being tested on SAT words currently have one recourse: drilling with flashcards. However, educators know flashcards are not the best way to build real-world knowledge that lasts, he said.

The new SAT takes three hours with an optional essay portion that gives an extra 50 minutes. The test will be offered in print or online. It will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will return to the 1,600-point scale last used in 2004, with a separate score for the optional essay. It will be up to school districts and colleges the students apply to as to whether the essay will be required.

Instead of testing a wide range of math concepts, the new exam will focus on a few areas, like algebra, deemed most needed for college and afterward. A calculator will be allowed only on certain math questions, instead of on the entire math portion.

Once the predominant college admissions exam, the SAT in recent years has been overtaken in popularity by the competing ACT, which has long been considered more curriculum based. The ACT offers an optional essay and announced last year it would begin making computer-based testing available in 2015.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at SarahRafique.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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