Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The New SAT

The Internet is abuzz with news that The College Board is rolling out an update to the SAT,  after overhauling the exam in 2005 by adding two sections and increasing the end of the point scale to 2400. The new new version will launch in 2016.

Here's a look at what's changing this time:

  • The print format remains but students in some locations will be able to take the exam on a computer. 
  • The exam will consist of three parts: Evidence-based reading and writing, math and the essay. 
  • 50 minutes will be added to the exam time, for the essay portion. 
  • The exam will return to the 400-1600 point scale. 
Those are the overarching changes to the exam. For more specific changes, head over to the source:

The SAT has always been a controversial entity, and a change of this magnitude only fans the flames. The College Board's rationale for redesigning the exam is to make it more democratic, and for the exam to more realistically reflect what American high school students are learning.  The exam will look more like the ACT which is a less popular exam but has been gaining ground on the SAT in the past few years. (I took both exams in high schools! The ACT was definitely easier than the SAT but it also had more familiar content than the SAT.) 

The College Board also hopes that the redesign will give a leg up to low-income students who do not have the advantage of taking expensive prep classes. The test fee will also be waived for students who qualify, and Khan Academy will provide free test prep.

Sounds pretty good, right? But I'm inclined to agree with Randolf Arguelles, who argues in the Wall Street Journal that democratizing the exam will make it less effective as an admissions tool. In the United States, despite the widespread adoption of the Common Core, there is no national curriculum, there is no standard of grading, there is no uniform measurement tool across states. The SAT allows universities to compare "apples to apples," as Arguelles says in his article.  

The chief complaint about the SAT has been that it doesn't measure real world knowledge but what is "real world knowledge"? The concept is subjective and a matter of opinion. I believe success in college is predicted by three things: a sophisticated vocabulary, reading comprehension and study skills. The SAT covers all three of these things, which are useful across all disciplines, no matter what major you declare. This is not elitist. What is elitist, however, are expensive test prep programs that shut out low-income students, which reflects the "real world," as well--access is equal to advantage. This is why test prep is already made available for free or at low cost in low-income areas. 

In New York City, free test prep is offered by APEX:

In Fairfield County, some school districts offer low-cost test prep. Stratford, for example, offers a course for $105:

As a tutor, I am committed to offering affordable test prep, and general academic tutoring, and will work with a family's budget! 

Here are two more stories on the new SAT, plus one just for laughs!

Nancy Cavillones is a writing coach based in West Redding, Connecticut. She is available to coach students on application essays and AP English essays as well as general academic tutoring in ELA and Social Studies for grades 5-12. Coaching is available online and in person. Tutoring is only available in person. Contact her today for rates and availability.