The Harbinger Online

Updating The Test

How do students feel while taking the SAT?

(A) distracted

(B) stressed for time

(C) mentally and physically exhausted

(D) worried that their score will ultimately affect them for the rest of their life

(E) all of the above

The best choice here would be E.

Although some students prepare for college entrance exams more than others, tests like the ACT and SAT create many less than positive feelings. In order to reduce some of the negativity surrounding the SAT, The College Board is revising the test for the spring of 2016. College Board president David Coleman said in a statement that the SAT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” In hopes of better reflecting what students are learning in school, Coleman aims to include concepts on the test corresponding with the Common Core curriculum. The perfect score will change from 2400 to 1600, and students will no longer lose points for incorrect answers. In addition, the essay portion is now optional.

The Harbinger believes that these recent changes are a step in the right direction, but that no single exam, administered on a single day reflects students’ abilities.

According to a study conducted by College Board, only 20 percent of classroom teachers believe college admission tests are a fair predictor of college success in comparison to daily work conducted at school. The only way to measure a student’s potential is to take a holistic approach: looking at what courses the student chose to take in high school, what their school is like and how they’ve responded to academic challenges. Instead admissions reps are using a non-holistic approach, students simply become a number, a score.

Although the use of college admission exams as a measure of college-preparedness remains controversial, parts of the SAT overhaul can be seen as advantageous. The goal of the redesign is to get students to focus less on things like studying obscure SAT vocabulary and spending more time using high level thinking. In terms of real-world application in college and the workforce, it makes sense to eliminate seldom used vocabulary words like “inchoate” and “legerdemain” and replace them with words like “empirical” and “synthesis.”

However, this new approach to SAT words causes students to abandon learning for the sake of appreciating the English language. Although well-intentioned, these changes demonstrate the diminishing value placed on writing skills and a strong vocabulary. There’s a danger in making the test easier.

It’s hard to say whether or not these changes will help lower income students achieve higher scores. Test preparation is costly, and critics believe this has put low-income students at a great disadvantage when it comes to studying for the SAT. Because of this, College Board announced plans to partner with Khan Academy to offer free online practice for students. Nevertheless, the competitiveness of the SAT will still exist, which many students answer with expensive tutoring. Students must have a great deal of discipline to study for the SAT independently and thus, the free online practice offered as an alternative may not be utilized.

If the past is any indicator, the overhaul will do little to make the SAT a fairer assessment of a student’s potential. Even with changes in vocabulary and greater emphasis on Common Core curriculum, the new SAT is still a far from perfect way of determining intelligence. A better approach would be the creation of a test truly linked to the content and skills students claim to have learned rather than what College Board deems valuable for life in college and outside the classroom.

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