Why the SAT is Changing
by Kris Quiaoit
In 2016 the SAT will undergo another facelift, one more extensive than the nip and tuck in 2008. If the SAT changes as much as College Board President Coleman promises, the 2016 test will be almost completely different from its predecessor. So what’s the change and why now? Here are a few reasons along with the changes College Board is making in response.
Increasing Competition from the ACT
Since its inception, the SAT has been more popular than the ACT. That is, until 2012. Why is the ACT surpassing the SAT in popularity?
1) There is no penalty on the ACT. Many students didn’t appreciate being penalized a quarter of a point for wrong answers on the SAT.
College Board’s Solution: Remove the penalty.
2) The essay is optional. Many schools like the California State Universities do not require the essay. Students only applying to these type of schools could take the ACT and not be burdened by essay writing that doesn’t matter to admissions.
College Board’s Solution: Make the essay optional.
3) The ACT does not test students’ knowledge of obscure vocabulary that no one really uses in even academic settings. Flotsam. Terse. Pejorative. Trenchant. Exactly.
College Board’s Solution: Test for relevant vocabulary.
More schools are dropping the SAT and ACT as a requirement for admissions.
Schools like Pitzer College (California) and Bard College (New York) are making SAT and ACT testing optional if not completely removed from the admission process. More schools are following this trend because of the inability of current testing to predict college success. The SAT and ACT really just measure how well students take these tests. What colleges are looking for are ways to gauge if students have the basic skills for research and analytical thinking.
College Board’s Solution: Create reading, writing, and math questions that
require college level analysis of evidence and critical thinking.
Scores are strongly correlated to socioeconomic status (SES)
It’s no secret that students with access to test preparation tend to perform better on tests than low SES. Effective test preparation can range from $25 to $300 per hour of instruction. Students who can’t afford it are less likely to understand the ins and outs of the tests as affluent students. Additionally, the SAT uses “real world examples,” which may be biased to those who are more familiar with those examples such as “if a loan is granted with compounding interest and the formula is—.” What happens to those students who have no idea of what a loan and compounding interest looks like? Financial literacy isn’t a requirement for college admissions (although it should be taught in high schools).
College Board’s Solution: Collaborate with Khan Academy to provide free
online courses for the SAT.
The SAT is making drastic changes to reclaim the admission test throne. Don’t be surprised if the ACT responds with changes of its own. How much the renovated SAT will affect admissions remains to be seen. We’ll get a better picture when the College Board provides sample questions and tests. Next week, we’ll explore what the redesigned SAT means for students and test preparation.
Above: College Board’s released SAT blueprint
About Kris Quiaoit