Student in favor of new changes to the SAT, wishes they had taken place sooner

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Molly Sweeney

Beginning in spring of 2016, words such as circuitous, clairvoyant and assiduous may not be on the test that haunts every high school student at least once in their academic career. The College Board, which administers everyone’s favorite standardized test more commonly known as the Scholastic Assessment Test, announced on Wednesday, March 5, that for the first time since 2005, there will be significant changes made to the over 110-year-old test.

Different aspects of the test that have blighted student’s scores will now become a thing of the past. If you don’t know what blighted means, look it up in your old SAT prep book and get back to me when you begin to suffer from a severe case of tedium. If you rid your bookshelf of these books and notecards, I will save you a trip to the dictionary—‘blighted’ means damaged or destroyed and tedium is boredom.

According to the College Board website, the first standardized admissions test was developed in 1901 by a group of United States colleges. Prior to the standardization of this exam, students applying to college would need to take a different exam for every college they applied to. In my graduating high school class, there was one girl who maxed out the Common Application at 20 applications. Now imagine needing to take a different entrance exam for each of the 20 colleges.

That is where the SAT comes in.

Most colleges have required either the SAT or the ACT as a part of the standard admission package in order to have some sense of what the student is capable and to see how students compare to their peers. However, in the last 10 years or so, hundreds of colleges have become test-optional, including Assumption College.

Even though more and more schools are becoming test optional, the SAT is still an important part of the transition from high school to college academics. The new changes that have been announced are refreshing and allow more students the opportunity to find success on an exam that can make or break their future.

The new SAT, which members of the Assumption College Class of 2021 will take, includes changes to the reading and writing sections; no more completing the sentence with words that can be found in a pack of 1000 notecards.

The math section will ban the use of calculators on some sections and will now force students to apply skills that relate to data analysis and problem-solving that can be put to use in the real world.

Another change that will be seen in the updated version of the SAT concerns the essay, which was added in 2005. This means that the days of students writing a somewhat off-the-cuff philosophical essay in hopes of earning a high score are gone. However, these essays are not going to become totally extinct. They will be optional and scored separately. Additionally, the prompt will be almost identical on every test and will require students to look at a passage and analyze the author’s arguments using different ideas and arguments.

Fortunately for students who take the new version of the SAT, no points will be deducted if they answer a question wrong, giving them more of an opportunity to take a risk even if they do not know the correct answer.
The “new” exam will take approximately three hours, and an extra 50 minutes will be tacked on for the optional essay, adding to the already draining day of test taking. Students preparing for the exam will be able to take advantage of College Board’s new partnership with Khan Academy, which will provide free online test preparation skills and courses, in order to allow all students the opportunity to have a fair chance when taking this test regardless of financial background.

After hearing about the new changes to the SAT, I could not help but feel a pang of jealousy and wondered out loud, “Why couldn’t they have changed this when I was in high school?”

After finding out about these changes, I wanted to gain more knowledge of how the SAT is looked at in the eyes of an admissions department. I talked to Kathleen Murphy, the Dean of Enrollment here at the College.
It was explained to me that the changes are positive because they will create a more level playing field for all students even though it will never be totally even. Murphy explained how the SAT could be helpful to colleges because regardless of what your educational background is, everyone will be taking the same test.

These changes are refreshing and allow students a fairer chance at doing well and ensuring that a grade on an exam does not define who they are. The way I see it, the colleges that require an SAT score focus too much on the number. When in life will a score on a test that I took in high school determine what kind of person I am and what kind of skills I have?

Looking back on my days in SAT test prep classes (and I took the SATs multiple times), I often wonder what my life would have been like had I done better on these tests and if I still would have ended up at Assumption had my other top choices not required my SAT score.

Even though the SAT will never be 100 percent fair, I am excited for the upcoming students who will be taking the updated version because I hope that they find success in something that so many students have struggled with for so many years.

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