College Board Shows Right Mindset with New SAT

Beginning in the spring of 2016, the decade of 2400 SATs will be over. Gone will be the days of mandatory essays and archaic multiple choice problems, but its replacement still remains an elusive mystery, a “project in the works.” College Board, however, is taking the right approach by scaling back the contrived tenets of the test and making it a more practical evaluation of student achievement and college readiness by aligning the test more towards schoolwork.

The president of the College Board, David Coleman, criticized the SAT and its rival the ACT, saying that both had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” The SAT was designed as a means to an end; the exam satisfies an innate desire to place a “numerical” and “quantifiable” measurement for a high school career. Life’s never black and white, but the gray area of admissions decisions makes a whole lot more sense when there are solid numbers attached. As such, there is value implicit in the existence of the SAT.

“The intent of colleges using the SAT is to have an an objective assessment for an applicant…it’s not going to go away in the near future.” College and Career Center coordinator Dawn Allen said.

But, even as such, the exam as it currently exists follows large-scale modifications that were instituted in 2005: an entire section dedicated to writing and a mandatory essay, which becomes more and more an anachronism.

This isn’t the first time that College Board has called for change. The 2400 point SAT marked a turning point in College Board’s proctoring tenure; in 2005, it was introduced as a “new” exam, something that was designed to accurately test the rigors of a high school education. Unfortunately, the “2400” SAT became the literal exemplification of an “ignominious” test.

The old SAT’s need for reform arose because it would ask questions entirely unrelated to the typical high school’s curriculum, and relied on tricks, not content, to increase difficulty. In addition, students lost a quarter-point for each wrong answer, forcing them to choose which questions to skip.

By way of obscure diction questions, contrived essays and a ridiculous five-hour duration, the exam appeared more to be a “trial by fire” for high school students than it was an appropriate indicator of college-preparedness, which the exam sought to test for.

“I think the SAT is an outdated test,” senior Henry Park said. “I really feel like all our high school work wasn’t accurately [reflected] in the narrowness of the exam.”

The dominating characteristic of the current SAT is tedium, so the new test puts into place several changes that trim the fat off of the test. For one, making the essay component of the SAT examination optional is a move that erodes testing of a skill which is not all that useful as a standardized prognosticator. The essay mostly came down to forming a thesis that can just barely answer the prompt but then be supported by pieces of evidence that some students who prepared before hand can put on the page, while anyone else who tries to think for more than five minutes will inevitably be cut short. Unfortunately, with only two to three minutes for readers to read the essay, the single best predictor of score on the SAT essay becomes length, not content.

Ultimately, while the College Board has great intentions for the new SAT, there still is a flaw implicit in the reform with the new exam. The new SAT still remains an extremely “expensive” exam, in that the College Board can’t avoid that it can be tutored. The partnership with Khan Academy, while seemingly useful can’t possibly scratch the surface of all the tutoring that money can buy. Thus, College Board’s inherent goal to use the SAT as a competitive measure of high school ability and driving factor in college admissions seems impossible, at least in today’s sense.