One of the two major entrance exams that most students take to get into college is changing in a big way. The College Board announced changes to the SAT test Wednesday that include how it is scored and how students can take the test.
These are the first modifications since 2005.
The new exam will be shorter — just three hours, minus the essay. The test will be available in a digital format and and the highest score will be reduced from 2400 to 1600.
The SAT vocabulary section is known for stumping students, but new test changes coming in the spring of 2016 remove "obscure" vocabulary words.
Instead, students will be tested on words more commonly used in college and in the workplace. That, along with other significant changes, are seen as good for both students and colleges.
"It’s a good attempt at aligning the SAT more with what we as college admissions are trying to do, and that is to get kids into college," said Wes Waggoner, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at SMU, where the average SAT score is 1300.
Another change Waggoner likes is making the essay portion optional. Changes will have writing skills integrated throughout the exam.
"That’s not really what I’m good at," said Townview High School junior Oscar Hernandez. "I can’t really write that well, so I’d rather not to do it that than to do it."
Still, Hernandez — who took the SAT recently — said he believes he did well on the other portions, and that his score will be high enough to get into the college of his choice.
The College Board is also making more test preparation classes available to low income students. Townview High Student Shirley Melgarejo said she ordered books to prepare.
"I studied at least an hour or two every day," Melgarejo said.
Waggoner said he applauds the College Board's transparency in offering more access to test preparation.
"I think it will be a successful one at making sure that every student — regardless of what high school they go to, regardless of what economic level — that they will access to the same preparation opportunities."
Some experts believe the SAT is facing competition from the ACT, which is gaining popularity in Texas.
"Some of these changes make the SAT more like the ACT," said Seppy Basili, an executive at Kaplan Test Prep. "The ACT has really been gaining a lot of ground in Texas. I think it makes a lot of sense, because the ACT has always tested students in the way they take their classes in school."
Basili said it also shows that the College Board recognizes how much adequate preparation can help a student's score.
"Thirty years ago, the SAT said you couldn’t prepare for the test, and now the fact that there is a test prep being made available for all students legitimizes what test prep can do," he said.
The latest version of the SAT will be available April 16.