Upgrades to the evil test are coming soon. In its “Delivering Opportunity and the Redesigned SAT” website, the College Board and its President, David Coleman, announced on March 5 that changes to the SAT and Preliminary SAT (PSAT) will be effective from March 2016. The total possible score will be 1600 because the current reading and writing sections will be condensed into a single “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” section. The essay will be optional, and its score will be separate from the math and reading-writing combined section scores.
According to Education Week, both the vocabulary and reading comprehension portions of the reading-writing section will be changed to better reflect Common Core, which was developed in part by Coleman. Luckily for future test takers, the College Board says it will remove “words that are sometimes obscure and not widely used in college and career,” but the changes to the reading comprehension are trickier. Despite the widespread unpopularity and disastrous implementation of Common Core, I believe that the changes to the reading comprehension are more beneficial than not for students. For example, the College Board states in its website that students must analyze both text and data in sources from science, history and social studies in every test. Having a variety of sources in a text can be advantageous for students who are better in data analysis or are not as good in literature as in other areas.
Ms. Therese Sorey (English Dept.) said, “Data analysis is important in many fields, such as social studies, so it is nice that the new SAT will now ask students to interpret tables and graphs.”
Additionally, each exam will include a passage from a historical document, such as the Declaration of Independence, so any competent student who has knowledge of American history, especially an Advanced Placement United States History student, will be more likely to understand the passage and thus answer more questions correctly than in another passage.
Similar to the combined reading and writing section, the essay will ask students to analyze evidence and support their responses. According to College Board’s website, “students will read a passage and explain how the author builds an argument.” Because students must write only about the passage to receive a high score, those who will take the new SAT will not need to reference people or books to answer strange prompts anymore. As someone who has taken the SAT before, I would much rather support a clear thesis about a passage than ramble about the Civil War and Steve Jobs on the same page, because I have had more practice with “evidence-based” writing. Simply taking English classes at University High School (UHS) has prepared me to back up my positions with evidence and should help others do the same on the new SAT.
Compared to the current SAT, the new SAT seems to be fairer, and many people believe that the new SAT will finally give students at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum the opportunity to do well and succeed. But that is wishful thinking. After all, not all schools are equal. Affluent students usually attend schools with more funding, so those students tend to have better teachers and, thus, should be receiving better preparation for the SAT at school than underserved students.
To its credit, College Board is trying to make the SAT more egalitarian. In its website, College Board laments that “the rise of costly test preparation has introduced a level of inequality among students,” so in response, College Board will work with Khan Academy to provide “free, high-quality test-preparation materials for all.” But the inconvenient truth is that no matter how helpful the videos and online materials are, they cannot replace the interactions between teachers and students. Teachers can give immediate feedback to any questions or concerns that students may have. More importantly, teachers can tailor their instruction to the particular needs of a class or even a single student rather than a general population of Internet users. Affluent students who can afford personal attention to their studies should, thus, be at an advantage over other students who must learn on their own from generic materials.
We must not be overly enthusiastic about the upcoming changes to the SAT because they will not level the playing field for students of all socioeconomic levels or be very beneficial for classrooms.
Ms. Sorey said, “Students still have to take lots of other standardized tests, such as the Smarter Balance Assessment, besides the SAT. It would be more beneficial for teachers and students to have a single test that can be applicable to both college admissions and classroom instruction.”
Even if the changes do not fix the current inequity significantly, they certainly give us hope that the new SAT will be a better indication of performance at school than an indication of the number of preparation classes attended, and that hard work at school beats wealth. Just remember that the changes will not obviate (verb, to make unnecessary) the dedication and preparation needed to succeed in the SAT.
For more information about the redesigned SAT, visit https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat.
Written by ANDREW HONG