Redd has role in revamping SAT college entrance exam

Sammy Redd of the New College Institute is serving on a task force implementing an SAT preparation program that is being developed by the Khan Academy. His role includes collecting feedback on changes to the exam. (Bulletin file photo)

January 19, 2015

The SAT college entrance exam is being revised to make it more relevant to what high school students learn, which should make it easier for them to do well on the test, according to a local educator involved in the effort. 

“It’s being completely redesigned” to better reflect how well students have mastered skills they will need to succeed at colleges and universities, Sammy Redd, coordinator of college access for the New College Institute (NCI), said of the exam once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

“One of the goals,” Redd said, “is to get rid of the idea that it’s an aptitude test, or an IQ test,” when it really is an exam designed to measure students’ learning achievement. A person cannot prepare to take an aptitude test, he pointed out, whereas students can study to prepare for the SAT. 

Redd is serving on a task force involved in implementing an SAT preparation program for students that is being developed by the Khan Academy, which provides free educational resources to students and educators worldwide.

His involvement will include collecting feedback on changes to the exam — details of which will be placed online — from students, educators and others involved in convincing students to take college entrance exams, he said. 

“For NCI to have a voice ... on something as important as this standardized test that is administered to so many students throughout the nation is a big honor,” said NCI Associate Director/Chief Academic Officer Leanna Blevins. “It speaks to Sammy’s experience and knowledge in his field of expertise.”

The state-funded institute in Martinsville is “becoming a leader in innovative educational efforts nationally,” which is why its participation in recreating the SAT is important, Redd said. 

Redd’s involvement stems from him being past president of the Virginia ACT State Council. The ACT is another college entrance exam that Redd said now is taken by more high school students than the SAT, once the predominant of the two. Colleges and universities now accept either test; it is up to students to decide which to take, he said.

The ACT’s newfound popularity somewhat spurred the SAT’s revision, Redd said. 

Although the ACT covers material that the SAT does not, such as science, it is perceived as being more fair, he said.

Students who will graduate from high school in 2017 will be able to take the new SAT, which still is being developed, for the first time in March 2016, when they are juniors, Redd said. 

The new SAT will reflect “a narrower amount of information that is more relevant to what they’ve learned in the classroom,” he said.

For example, vocabulary on which students are tested will reflect language often used in college classrooms, not “obscure words” that students are not likely to hear in lectures, Redd said. 

Reading passages will be lifted from documents such as the Bill of Rights and the Emancipation Proclamation — “things that students study in school and are relevant to everyday life” — instead things that the College Board, the SAT’s creator, writes on its own, he said.

An essay writing section will become optional. Students will have to take it only if the colleges to which they apply require it, Redd said. 

Not all of the changes are intended to make taking the exam easier for students. For instance, Redd said, on the math section, students will be able to use calculators only on parts, not the entire section. The test is to reflect students’ familiarity with mathematical concepts, he said.

The top score that a student can achieve on the SAT now is 2,400. The top score for the revised exam will become 1,600, as it was years ago, with a separate score for the essay portion, according to online information. 

The SAT has been administered since the 1920s. The current revision will be its third major revision over the years. The last revision was in 2005, when the writing test was added, according to Redd.

The new exam “will bear almost no resemblance” to the test as it looked almost a century ago, he said. 

Redd encourages students to take both the SAT and ACT. The highest score on either will be the one that a college or university takes into account when deciding whether to admit a student, he said.

Don’t worry, students, if your score on either admissions test is a little lower than what you had hoped. 

“It won’t necessarily keep you out of the college of your dreams” as long as you excel academically in other ways, Redd said, such as by taking advanced-level courses and earning high grades.

Fees for taking either the SAT or ACT can be waived for students with financial hardships, he emphasized. 

Students who have questions about college admissions tests can contact Redd by email at



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