Beginning in the Spring of 2016, the SAT will be shifting to a new format. Why the change? The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, would say it's to help college admissions offices get a better sense of how prepared students are for college coursework. That's definitely one possible reason. It could also have something to do with the fact that every college in the U.S. now accepts both the SAT and the ACT, and that in 2012, for the first time, more students nationwide opted for the ACT. The SAT is getting beaten at its own game, and as the adage goes, “if you can't beat 'em...”
Over the past few months the College Board has announced a slew of changes to the SAT, many of which look very similar to what's already on the ACT. One example is that the new SAT Reading section will include questions based on charts and graphs. The current ACT Science test is just a reading test with charts and graphs. The SAT will also use reading passages that focus on subjects students cover in school, such as science and social studies, just like the ACT does now. Those notorious SAT words? They're being replaced with more common words presented in the context of a whole passage. Can you guess which test already does that? Students taking the current SAT agonize over whether or not to guess, since they get penalized more for incorrect answers than they do for leaving questions blank. The new SAT will base scores only on the number of questions students get right, like the ACT does.
The new SAT will be far from identical to the ACT. It will still have its own flavor, and many students will prefer it. The good news is that there's no reason to fret over what the new SAT might look like: spending a little time with the current ACT will give you a pretty good idea. And for students who don't like the SAT's new look? Just remember, there is another option.