Big changes are coming to one of the most important tests a student takes before getting into college: the SAT. The changes take effect in March 2016.
The new SAT has an optional essay, fewer multiple choice questions and no penalty for wrong answers -- which is far different than before. It also has a very different vocabulary section.
"The redesigned SAT is far more practical, focuses on the kinds of knowledge and skills that students will need -- not only in college, but in their career," said Cyndie Schmeiser, the SAT College Board Chief of Assessment.
"It's focused on what really matters, and I think students when they take it will see a match frankly between what the test is measuring is what they're learning in the classroom," she said.
For Vidya Mattu, taking the SAT is a critical benchmark for her. She's only a junior at Jefferson High School in Tampa, but she's already taken the SAT once, is taking it again at the end of the month and plans to take the new SAT in March.
"I probably prepared for this for four or five months," Mattu said.
Same goes for Resham Patel, another Jefferson High School Junior.
"It's one test score but it's very important," Patel said.
You can imagine both students' shock when they realized the test she'd studied hundreds of hours for was about to change.
"The new version completely threw me off," Patel said.
Because this is the first year of the new test, some experts now say students may only want to take the ACT, which is a similar but separate college entrance test.
One test prep group is making sure any kinks are worked out.
"It's a little bit risky to kind of go with a path that may have revoked scores, or unexpected questions," said Anthony-James Green, founder of Green Test Prep.
But students who feel they should take both, The College Board is providing free online and mobile practice tests and resources.
And there are other ways students can make their test preparation more efficient, Green said. The tests are so similar that you can study for the ACT and be pretty well-prepared for the new SAT, he said.
"Whichever one gives you the best comparative score, just submit that," Green said. "You don't even need to admit to colleges that you took the other one."
But these students, who eventually plan on taking both the SAT and ACT, aren't worried. They say they're ready.
'If I take what I learned with the old SAT, I'm going to do fine on the new one," Patel said.
The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free, world-class SAT practice materials that can be personalized to every student, a College Board spokesperson said via email.
Unlike traditional test prep, which suggests cramming for a single test, our practice tools complement students’ classwork to help improve their skills long after the test is over, they said.
Our new app called Daily Practice for the SAT can simulate test day and take the SAT or PSAT on paper and score it seconds, a College Board spokesperson said. They said you can take a picture of your answer sheet and get an instant score.
Students can practice whenever, wherever they are with the question of the day as well, they said.