SAT adopts ACT-esque format while disguising flaws

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As seen in the March 28 print edition

Michelle Banayan, graphics editor

 The SAT. To most students, the three-letter pseudo-acronym represents the age-old admissions test. The one that requires hours spent sifting through vocabulary flash cards and taking practice tests for that ultimate goal of a 2400. However, to those taking the exam in spring of 2016 and forward, the SAT will take on a completely new meaning.

According to David Coleman, president of the College Board, both the SAT and ACT have “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”  Yet, despite this comment, it appears that the remodeled test is merely a way for the SAT to move closer to the format of its rival, the ACT, to which it is losing business.

Soon after data showed that in September 2012, for the first time more students had taken the ACT than the SAT (a trend that continued in 2013), Coleman, who had been talking of revisions to the exam ever since the introduction of the required essay in 2005, announced plans to revise the SAT in February 2013. The testing company recently implemented these changes, reverting the SAT back to a 1600-point scale.  Quite similarly to the ACT, the SAT will no longer include obscure vocabulary, will have an optional essay, will not penalize students for incorrect answers and will place greater emphasis on textual evidence for reading comprehension. At this point, students opting to take the SAT may as well be taking the ACT due to their extreme similarities.

Since the new exam will be relatively easier than the current one, more students will be convinced to take the SAT in hopes of getting higher scores. However, this move of lowering the test’s standards in order to gain business has the potential to create a poor precedent for the admission test process as a whole. Soon enough, the ACT will likely alter its exam to an easier version to remain competitive with its SAT rival, ultimately lowering the country’s standards for students who are graduating to higher levels of education.

In addition, the College Board claims that the changes were also put into place in order to prevent the trend of extensive test preparation that puts those who cannot afford that kind of training at an unfair disadvantage. However, the new SAT does not prove to reverse that pattern. While it may help those who are unable to afford as much test preparation because of its more relatable content, it will not prohibit competition. It is inevitable that there will always be those who are willing to pay a large sum of money for their children to receive top-notch test preparation for admissions exams; as the college admissions process grows increasingly competitive, students’ desires to achieve a higher SAT/ACT score will be proportional.

Ultimately, the College Board’s exam alterations, though marketed as a means of creating an exam with more familiar material, along with fostering equal test-preparation practices, may actually be a move designed to increase the company’s competitiveness with other testing agencies while inadvertently lowering the standards expected of college-bound students. Perhaps the SAT’s decision to revise its format reflects a larger flaw in the nation’s overall education system. Rather than pushing students to achieve in more advanced settings, testing agencies are actually promoting easier, less advanced exams since students are likelier to take the latter in order to be more competitive in the college admission process. Therefore, rather than pointing a finger at those who design these tests in such a way to appeal to the overall desire of their consumers, we should focus our attention on the admissions processes of higher-education institutions.

 

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