SAT offers new opportunities

2016. This year now holds significance for all students, whether the change to come affects them or not. With the revisions to the SAT to take effect that year, current seniors, juniors, and sophomores rant about having to take a test that College Board itself has criticized, while freshmen stress about being unable to prepare for the unprecedented reworking of the exam. These general changes are upsetting to both sides of the cutoff.

It seems that the SAT is becoming more like its competitor in standardized testing, the ACT. Molding itself to the needs of the modern world, the test seems to be getting easier, using more relevant vocabulary and passage-based reading. Additionally, the dreaded guessing penalty will now be eliminated from the SAT. Yes, these changes do cultivate resentment and frustration for all of us except for the freshmen, but for the upcoming generations, we can look at their bright future with lots of new benefits from taking the altered SAT. So to the current freshmen, this is for you.

Until 2016, students will continue to pay $51 to take a test that is not entirely reflective of their true academic proficiency, but only evaluates their test-taking abilities. The registration fee is rarely the sole expense of a student who is taking the SATs. Parents also spend money on resources that will help their children learn test-taking strategies specifically targeted for the SAT. However, the chances that students will retain these strategies, or even find them useful after their final SAT, is close to none. This means that the money spent preparing for the current SAT is often a waste. However, with the future changes, students will be able to find more value in “studying” for the SAT, knowing that it will test skills and knowledge that can actually reflect their proficiency and that are more relevant to their future.

The correlation between wealth and the SAT in general will begin to decrease, as there will be a lack of differentiation in scores along lines of wealth with this revamped, or should we say de-vamped, SAT. In recent years, a bloated, money-fed testing culture has been the norm for towns like Princeton; the wealthiest families can afford extensive test-preparation classes and tutors costing hundreds of dollars an hour, leading to score increases that give these kids an advantage in the college application process. The mentality that better SAT scores can be “bought” in this way has put less affluent families at a significant disadvantage and has, over the years, extinguished the belief that the exam is a fair measure of college preparedness. The College Board President, David Coleman, recognized this phenomenon and told The New York Times that the SAT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.” The new changes aspire to level the playing field by “reinforcing the skills and evidence-based thinking that students should be learning in high school, and moving away from a need for test-taking tricks and strategies,” rendering tutoring services obsolete and producing fairer results that don’t correlate with economic status, according to Angel Franco of The New York Times. While these problems will probably still exist—with an attitude like Princeton’s toward the value of high SAT scores, it certainly won’t be long before test-prep services tailored to the revised edition pop up—they will hopefully be less widespread. If the new SAT achieves its goals, it will test students based on merit, with tutors and classes able to offer only minimal score boosts.

Although it is unlikely that these changes will completely revolutionize standardized testing and eradicate the dangerous wealth-dominated environment of the SAT, they will hopefully provide a more accurate indication of a student’s preparedness for college and the world beyond.