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College Board makes SAT essay optional

AUSTIN, Texas, March 5 (UPI) -- The College Board Wednesday announced it is redesigning the SAT college entrance exam to make the essay portion separate and returning the top score to 1600.

The organization also said it would pair with the free, online Khan Academy for test preparation and provide four college application fee waivers for low-income students who take the exam.

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The redesigned test, available both on paper and by computer, will be given in approximately three hours with an additional 50 minutes provided for the essay, beginning next year.

The vocabulary portion of the test will no longer include rarely used words and the reading-and-writing section, drawing on various disciplines including science and social studies, will require students to cite specific portions of text to support their answers.

The essay section will require students to analyze evidence "based on how an author builds an argument," the board said.

Problem-solving and data analysis, algebra and "passport to advanced math" will be the focus of the math portion.

"What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities," College Board President David Coleman said in a release. "The real news today is not just the redesigned SAT, but the College Board's renewed commitment to delivering opportunity. ...

"Research will guide our efforts to enhance the work students already do in their classes in grades 6-12. And that research shows that mastery of fewer, more important things matters more than superficial coverage of many."

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