The new SAT has sparked a furious debate on whether these changes are good or bad for upcoming high school students. Many people are disgruntled with the SAT College Board not because of these changes, but because the College Board has shown its lack of clarity and irrelevance in crafting the old SAT in the first place. For example, the essay portion, which was added in 2005 with great enthusiasm as being an integral component of the exam is now made optional and no longer heralded as crucial. The multiple thousand vocabulary words that every high school student stressed out over is now promoted as an unnecessary part of the SAT. They have also removed the previous scoring system of deducting a quarter point for every wrong answer to multiple-choice questions.
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Put simply, the new SAT is starting to look a lot like the ACT. And people are starting to speak out about whether these changes are in response to the SAT losing popularity and hence market share to the ACT. This College Board announcement on the new SAT comes two years after the college-entrance exam’s rate was first overtaken by its rival, the ACT. For the class of 2013, 1.8 million students took the ACT, compared with 1.7 million who took the SAT.
Yet, College Board seems to be making plans to go beyond the exam itself to expand opportunity for disadvantaged students. In a bid to remove the expensive test prep system, often to the advantage of the higher socio-economic class, College Board also announced that students would have free access to online SAT prep materials from Khan Academy. Additionally, College Board has stated that they would directly give every income-eligible student who takes the SAT four fee waivers to apply to college. “The real advance is to make an SAT that openly rewards the best of high school work and that invites far more productive participation on the part of students and teachers,” said Coleman, President of the College Board.
What are the benefits of the new SAT? The new SAT will integrate more reading and writing, mimicking the kind of process that students will be required to carry out in college. Thus, SAT prep would help to also prepare students for their college education. The revamped vocabulary section will also focus more on relevant language that students might use in college or on the job, making the new SAT vocabulary prep more relevant to high school students. The math section will also only allow calculator use on one of two math sections. This is an effort to hone the mental arithmetic skills of students and reduce their reliance on calculators – a skill that would be useful for them outside the classroom as well.
All in all, it seems as though the new SAT will be more helpful and relevant for students, ushering in a new era in the world of college admission tests.
About the author: Shimin Ooi is a junior in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs department. She has a strong interest in economic and health policy and has recently returned from a semester of study at Hertford College, Oxford. In high school, her extensive research on standardized tests helped her achieve a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores on each of her SAT Subject tests. Through these blog posts, she hopes to help others achieve test-taking success as well!