Changes to the SAT May Do More Harm Than Good

Practice essay for SAT

Maura Fennelly, Co-Editor-In-Chief

As many students are already aware, the College Board announced on Thursday, March 6th, that massive changes to the SAT will be put into place in 2016. Students that fear guessing on a question no longer need to worry; one change will void the rule that in the past penalized students for wrong answers. Other test-takers who cannot grasp difficult vocabulary are in the clear now that the College Board has stated it will get rid of out-dated words. The students that cannot possibly fathom having to write a 25-minute long essay no longer must fret, for the entire essay will be optional on the new test. My question is: how do these changes directly help students?

The president of the College Board, David Coleman, believes that not only the current SAT but also the ACT has “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” The problem is that the SAT was never too difficult: students have received perfect scores. Yes, it is a rarity but it has still happens. On a personal note, I took the current SAT three times and had to struggle through three hours and 45 minutes of debating whether or not to guess on a question and risk losing a massive quarter of a point. I sweated while having to choose between words like “bellicose,” “bifurcations,” and “smarmy.” My hand spasmed with severe cramps after the excruciating essay. In the near future students will no longer have to do any of those things – besides possibly the essay, if they so choose. But, I’m confused as to how these changes will exactly “reconnect” the SAT to the work taught in high schools as Coleman aims they will. Writing an essay in a small period of time is a crucial skill someone must have. Being confident enough in yourself so you can decide on a multiple choice question and still risk a loss is also important. And although I must admit that some of the vocab that is included in the test is outdated, it forces students to memorize and expand their knowledge.

Although I may sound bitter and jaded, I must give credit to the College Board for implementing some positive alterations to the new test. Fee waivers will be more readily available and accessible to those who are not financially able to take the exam. The Khan Academy has also agreed to give free tutoring for students who cannot afford for the expensive test preparations that are currently given. There will also be math sections that do not allow a calculator; this will force students to solely use their own thinking to solve problems.

It will undoubtedly be interesting to observe how the new changes affect student test scores and college admissions. I’m just skeptical of the removal of certain features of the test that were such motivating challenges. It may turn out that these changes will simple require less effort and study time put in by the students.