The connection between the new SAT and Common Core

college students

After news broke on how the newly revamped SAT will look in 2016, I heard many people asking these two questions: what is the correlation between the controversial Common Core standards and new SAT, and, will students living in states that have opted out of the Common Core be negatively affected by the new SAT?

The easiest answer to the first question is yes, there is a definite footprint and connection between the Common Core and the revamped SAT.

The easiest answer to the second question is we will see, but the connection is very unlikely to hurt students living in “opt-out” states (Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, Alaska, and Minnesota).

The Common Core and new SAT connection

Early rumblings about connections between the new SAT and Common Core came from the fact that David Coleman, president of the College Board (the organization that issues the SAT), was presented as the figurehead of the Common Core curriculum development and eventual national rollout.

In a recent College Board press release, Coleman said: “We will build on the remarkable care and expertise which statisticians have used to make the exam valid and predictive. While we build on the best of the past, we commit today that the redesigned SAT will be more focused and useful, more clear and open than ever before.” But what are the actual academic correlations?

To begin with, the new SAT will rely more on in-text analysis, meaning students will need to be better prepared to thoughtfully analyze passages and identify key arguments and evidence. While these types of passages are also in the current SAT, the new SAT will ask students to demonstrate this critical skill more broadly, incorporating into the equation texts from science and history – this is a Common Core theme.

Additionally, the Common Core promotes the use of “informational texts” in English and language arts classes (what we have traditionally thought of as literature only disciplines), and these will appear in the new SAT. Whether they are speeches, historical texts, literary non-fiction, or documents from America’s founding era, students will need to analyze these texts in an effort to demonstrate their proficiency with evidence-based reading and writing.

Lastly, more distant correlations between the new SAT and Common Core are found in the transformation of the vocabulary and the SAT essay becoming “optional.” In terms of vocab, the new SAT is doing away with the arcane and obscure words, instead shifting towards a more focused relationship between vocabulary and the real world conditions of college and career. This fits in with the Common Core’s desire to help students “Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level.”

The optional essay will also move away from topics that are based on a student’s personal experiences or thoughts and move more towards persuasive responses on how another author makes an argument based upon evidence and reason.

What does this mean for students living in “opt-out” states?

As Politico stated a few days ago, these revelations may upset some administrators in opt-out states, as well as parents or administrators involved with private schools or home-schooling. But it is very unlikely that the new SAT in 2016 will be more difficult for this specific group of students. The ACT is already comfortably aligned with the Common Core, and as long as students are comfortable with in-text analysis, there are very few changes to the new SAT that are likely to be any more difficult for students than the current SAT.


For an interesting take on the changes to the new SAT’s vocabulary section, check out the opinion of the Fordham Institute’s Andy Smarick and David Coleman’s response.

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