Freshmen at Lick-Wilmerding High School will be facing a different SAT than sophomores and juniors will be. The College Board has announced that it has revamped the SAT and, in 2016, the new test will be implemented. College Board President David Coleman said, “It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become far too disconnected from the work of our high schools” and called the new test “a breath of relief.”
Several major changes have been made to the SAT. According to the College Board official website, the new SAT will contain the following alterations:
The exam will be scored out of 1600 points, as opposed to the 2400 it is currently.
The essay will no longer be mandatory, and students will have more time to take it.
The quality and accuracy of evidence will be taken into account while grading the essay.
The vocabulary will be updated to include more relevant words, and will appear in context.
Students will be required to analyze text for their answers in the Critical Reading and Writing sections.
The option of taking the test on a computer will be added.
Students will no longer be penalized for incorrect answers.
These changes come at a time when the SAT has been facing criticism for being a dated and unfair test that no longer achieves its purpose.
The College Board states that “the primary purpose of the SAT is to measure a student’s potential for academic success in college.” Several parts of the SAT, such as the essay and vocabulary sections, have been lambasted for failing to represent students’ ability to reason. One prominent critic of the essay, former MIT writing professor Les Perelman, explains that “the SAT essay is a completely artificial and unnatural piece of writing” where “details count, accuracy doesn’t.”
Critics say test preparation gives an unfair advantage to those who can afford it and choose to use it. Many families cannot afford, or do not wish to spend the money on tutors. In 2009, the National Association for College Admission Counseling published a report detailing the average costs of SAT prep: $400 for an online course, $1100 for a class and $100 to $200 per hour for individual tutoring. For many financially burdened families, the possibility of a better score is not worth a large monetary investment. To address this issue, the College Board has contracted Khan Academy to make free-to-view SAT preparation videos.
Another major criticism of the SAT is that, for a test that is supposedly is prep-proof, it has spurred a multi-billion dollar market of tutors, study books and online prep courses. The U.S. exam preparation and tutoring market, which SAT preparation is an integral part of, has seen massive growth in the last decade. A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce posted a market value of $815 million. In 2009, Time magazine placed it at $4 billion. Most recently, in 2012, the Education Industry Association and GSV Asset Management valued the market at $11 billion.
It is a common opinion that SAT tutors and many other preparation methods are not effective at increasing scores, and that many cheaper study methods are just as, if not more, beneficial to a student’s score. Despite the prevalence of this opinion, the market continues to grow and many test-preparation companies offer score-increase guarantees. The Princeton Review, one of the largest for-profit SAT-preparation companies, guarantees a full refund to students whose scores do not increase at least 150 points. Kaplan, another major test preparation provider, offers continued free tutoring to students who are not satisfied with their overall score.
In recent years, the ACT has become an increasingly popular alternative to the SAT. The ACT appeals to students with its optional essay and lack of memorization-based vocabulary, as well as a grading system that does not deduct points for incorrect answers. The ACT also generally requires less preparation than the SAT does, and thus is less financially burdening upon families.
The SAT has long been trying to make itself immune to strategy and planning by college-bound students. In 2005, the College Board changed the test scoring from 1600 to 2400, added the essay and open-ended math questions and eliminated analogies from the Critical Reading and Writing sections. However the current SAT is not 100% prep-proof, proven by the continued existence of SAT tutors. The future will decide if the new 2016 SAT is worthy to continue being an established part of the college application process.