The SAT has been around for decades. For students soon to graduate high school, it’s a rite of passage that almost everyone goes through, and for colleges, it serves as a significant benchmark for selecting students for admission. For the past nine years, the test has consisted of nine multiple choice sections and an essay, which combined can earn a score of up to 2400--until March 5th of this year, when the College Board announced their plans to make some changes to the standardized test.
Originally, the SAT, created in 1926, but it has come a long way since then. Throughout the years, it has gradually evolved to meet educational standards and better reflect the material taught in high schools today. The biggest change it ever underwent was when it split from being one big general test to two distinct sections of verbal and quantitative analysis. Then, in 1994, antonym questions were removed, the reading passages became longer, open-ended math questions were added, and calculators became permitted to use during the test. The most recent change to the test occurred in 2005, when the essay was added as a separate section, analogies were eliminated, the math section was expanded to include Algebra II content, and, as the most dramatic change, the scoring went from a maximum of 1600 to a maximum of 2400.
Now, the SAT is going back to the 400-1600 point scale. There will be three sections, composed of evidence-based reading and writing, math, and the essay. The new essay will require students to analyze a passage and explain the author’s argument, and the prompt will be shared in advance and remain consistent; only the passage changes. However, on the new SAT, the essay will be made optional, although some colleges may still require essay scores. Math questions will become more narrowly focused, and the vocabulary words will be less obscure and more applicable to the real world. Also, there will be no point deduction for wrong answers. The SAT is still going to be distributed mainly in print, but select locations will have an option to take the test on the computer. It should take about three hours, and 50 minutes for the optional essay. The full specifications, as well as example problems, for the new SAT will be made available on April 16th, 2014.
So, why are these changes being made? The president of the College Board, David Coleman, announced the SAT redesign, saying that the SAT has become disconnected with what is currently being taught in American high schools. Analysts say that American students have fallen behind their counterparts in other developed nations in test results, prompting concerns that the US is insufficiently preparing young people for competing in a global economy. While some believe that the changes might further lower the standards, the College Board says that they are to make the test as clear and effective as possible, and to make sure no student has an unfair disadvantage. Another concern is whether the SAT is changing due to a recent trend of students either taking the ACT, the other major college admissions exam, instead of the SAT, or opting out of taking a standardized test at all. While the majority of four-year colleges still require to submit test scores, hundreds have switched to test-optional policies, allowing students to decide whether or not to submit a score. Since mid-2012, more students have been reported taking the ACT than the SAT, with about 1.7 million students taking the ACT each year compared to 1.6 million taking the SAT. In the year 2013, it was reported that only 43% of students scored highly enough on the SAT to succeed in college. These changes to the SAT are making it more similar to the ACT, indicating that it might be an attempt to get more students to take the SAT again.
The College Board promises that “When students open their SAT test books in Spring 2016, they’ll encounter an SAT that is more focused and useful than ever before.” Hopefully, these changes will improve the SAT and make it a more effective tool for students that have previously struggled with the standardized testing system.