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updated 3/7/2014 11:16:30 AM ET 2014-03-07T16:16:30

In an effort to be more relevant to today's students, the SATs -- the bane of many a high school junior and senior's existence -- is getting a makeover. Again. 

In Austin, Texas, this week, College Board CEO and President David Coleman announced significant changes  to the venerable standardized test, which will go into effect in 2016.

Reversing several of the updates made to the college admissions exam in 2005, the test will return to the 1600 scale from the current 2400, and the essay portion is now optional. Test takers will also no longer be penalized for choosing a wrong answer, and SAT vocabulary words will be revamped in favor of ones that are a bit less "obscure." The test will be available in digital form and run exactly three hours, down from three hours and 45 minutes. 

Related: Oklahoma Makes Personal Finance Mandatory for High School Students

While about 800 out of 3,000 American four-year colleges and universities don’t require potential applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores, the test prep industry has been criticized for being nothing if not expensive, and Coleman admitted as much in his remarks, noting “the College Board cannot stand by while some test-prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching.”

So to that end, College Board plans to partner with education nonprofit Khan Academy to provide free SAT practice instruction. Additionally, income-eligible students will receive four waivers to apply to college for free.

Related: Guess What: Going to College Still Pays

When asked for comment by TheWashington Post ACT President Jon L. Erickson said he was “a little underwhelmed” by the College Board announcement. “I appreciate and I’m glad they’re fixing their acknowledged flaws in their test."

The going rate to take an SAT exam is $51 while the ACT (with optional writing section) is $52.50. Though the costs are fairly similar, the ACT has been gaining on the SAT in terms of popularity for some time. Indeed, 1.8 million people took the ACT and 1.7 million sat for the SAT, and the numbers for both are only on the rise.  

Related: How the Changing Education Landscape is Helping Entrepreneurs

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