College admissions test put to the test

Rachel Multz | Staff Writer

Much to the chagrin of most students who have already taken the SAT, the College Board has recently decided to revise its exam. I believe this is for the better.

SAT used to stand for Scholastic Aptitude Test (currently, it is not an acronym for anything), and honestly, until this revision came about, it was more about how well you could take a test than how much you have achieved scholastically throughout your primary and secondary schooling. 

The main goal of College Board’s enormous overhaul of the SAT is to make the material present on the test represent facts and words that are actually useful and applicable to a student when he or she enters the college realm. This will hopefully open up many doors and opportunities for people who could not afford to hire a tutor for the SAT. Until this point, the method by which a large fraction of students would study is by hiring tutors or taking courses that would help them learn tricks and tips in order to receive a high score, putting students who could not afford such classes at a distinct disadvantage, however intelligent they may be. Ideally, this new test will allow for more answers based on common sense and logical reasoning rather than memorizing a set of tricks. Hopefully this change will also help to allow greater diversity in college admissions at selective universities. Now that the SAT is more approachable, the test results should become more egalitarian, allowing more intelligent students from all socioeconomic backgrounds a fair chance at being admitted to selective institutions like Washington University.

This change came about due to the fact that more students are taking the ACT, arguably a much more “fair” test than the SAT. One could walk into the ACT without having studied and do reasonably well, if they are of mild intelligence. Most of the ACT’s problems are far more straightforward than those that are on the SAT, and there is no need to learn any tricks or formulas in order to do well. The College Board probably noticed that more high school students were registering for the ACT over the SAT, and it wanted to incentive some of those students to return back to its exam.

One of the most significant changes that will occur in this overhaul of the SAT is the elimination of the writing section and the change from a mandatory essay to an optional one. This is almost exactly what the ACT has and will return the SAT to its former 1600 scale rather than its current 2400 scale. While it is good that it is revising the essay portion, since the writing of this essay was also largely formulaic, I don’t think it is a good idea for the College Board to eliminate the writing section. For one thing, studying for the writing section of the SAT substantially raised my knowledge of proper English grammar, a subject which is sadly lacking in its teaching in schools. I also believe that it is useful for students to know how to write an essay for college. I think it is good that it is changing the subject matter of the essay, but I don’t agree with its decision to make it optional.  

I would like to congratulate the College Board for finally realizing that its college preparatory test did not accurately reflect what students will encounter in college, instead giving students an additional stressor in the already stressful process of applying to college. Good for you, College Board. This is a step in the right direction.

  • Nancy Frieder

    I have some mixed feelings about the newest version of the SAT. While I agree that in many ways it will become a more approachable test, I can’t help but wonder if the College Board would be instituting these changes if it wasn’t feeling the financial tug from the serious competition it has increasingly been facing from the ACT. As for the doing away writing section, I am saddened. I’m okay with the essay portion being optional; it’s the grammar portion I’m concerned about. The sad truth is that many high school curriculums are based on what the students will be tested on: state-sponsored proficiency exams, AP tests or college entrance exams. If the students aren’t tested on their understanding of basic grammar–including the common errors, irregularities and exceptions–I doubt their teachers will adequately teach them these things. I feel this is a tragedy, as the ability to communicate well in writing is important in almost any field. I also feel bad for the students because, in my opinion, the grammar section was the easiest section to ace if the student knew the rules.

    Nancy Frieder
    Writing Coach/Editor
    The Write Stuff Help