Essay is optional on new SAT



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WASHINGTON (AP) — The essay is optional on the new version of the SAT college entrance exam.

It will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, with an emphasis on analysis. Scoring will be on a 1,600-point scale, with a separate score for the optional essay.

The testing company, the College Board, is doing away with some vocabulary words that students wouldn't often come across -- in favor of words more commonly used in school and on the job.

College Board officials say the goal is to make the exam better reflect what students study in high school, and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward.

The new exam will be rolled out in 2016. This year's ninth-graders will be the first to take it, in their junior year. They'll have the option of taking the test on a computer.

The test upgrades are the first since 2005, when the essay was added and analogy questions were removed.

One long-standing criticism of the SAT is that students from wealthier households do better because they can afford expensive test prep classes. The College Board is trying to deal with that, by partnering with the nonprofit Khan Academy to provide free test-preparation materials.

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