Redesigned SAT set to debut in 2016

Monica Dang, Staff Writer

SAT2016The SAT: for some it is a grueling four-hour exam that elicits sweat, frustration, panic — and, inevitably — a score that will either lead to a college of choice or to a door being slammed in a student’s face.

However, changes are underway for this most revered, and feared, exam.

The SAT and the ACT have “become disconnected from the work of our high schools,” College Board president David Coleman declared in “The New York Times’” article “A New SAT Aims to Realign With Schoolwork.”  Coleman’s criticism of the SAT test was followed by an announcement of the unveiling of a redesigned SAT set to debut in the spring of 2016.

Changes include a 1600-point scale based on a top score of 800 in math and reading, an optional essay, more commonly used college course words, no penalty for incorrect answers, justification of answers, and the integration of social studies, sciences, and founding documents.

These changes have been both praised and criticized by students and instructors.

Some believe that the reason behind the change is that more students are starting to choose to take the ACT over the SAT.

According to the “Times’” article, last year 1.7 million students took the SAT compared to the ACT’s 1.8 million students.  The ACT has become increasingly more popular.

“My opinion is this test will be easier than the current SAT and the College Board is betting on more students taking the SAT because of that,” said Shan Patel  in “Behind the SAT: The Good and Bad of the 2016 Redesign.” Patel is the director of SAT programs and only person to obtain a perfect score of 2400.

The changes to the SAT are seen by some as an effort to make the exam more similar to the ACT.

“David Coleman is not a spokesman for the ACT, and I acknowledge his political gamesmanship but I don’t appreciate it,” said Jon Erickson, president of ACT’s education division, in the same “Times’” article. “It seems like they’re mostly following what we’ve always done.”

In Princetonreview.com students can find the listed differences and similarities between the ACT and SAT. The ACT has questions that are more straightforward, and more centered on math and sciences.  According to Princetonreview.com, it is “more of a big picture exam,” meaning that the ACT has a total score that makes a bigger impression on colleges whereas the SAT divides its score into three subjects (writing, reading, and math), making students’ weaknesses in a particular area noticeable. The current SAT has a required essay and no science portion. The SAT also focuses more on vocabulary and grammar.

Some warn that the potential degradation of the standards might prompt the ACT to make its test easier in response.

“It’s a good move that it’s becoming easier in a way, but it’s also a very bad move in that I think it’s sort of a race to the bottom now,” Patel said in “Behind the SAT: The Good and Bad of the 2016 Redesign.” “When and if the ACT makes its next change, it might lower its standards to remain competitive against the SAT.”

Some students are also critics of the seemingly easier and redesigned SAT.

“I don’t think it will prepare them for college if the SAT is, in my opinion, easier,” senior Michelle Phounpraseut said.

Other changes, however, are promising.

The new SAT will test students’ critical thinking, and the material will be more aligned with lessons learned in the classroom.  The new SAT will feature more narrow and class-instruction oriented questions. In “New SAT Aims to Realign with Schoolwork,” the author notes that “Instead of arcane ‘SAT words’ (‘depreciatory,’ membranous’), the vocabulary definitions on the new exam will be those of words commonly used in college courses, such as ‘synthesis’ and ‘empirical.’”

The math portion will be centered on three areas: linear equations; complex equations or functions; and ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning.

The reading and writing portions will contain passages of science and social studies, and one of the nation’s “founding documents,” requiring test-takers to select a quotation from the text to provide reasoning for their response.

Some students say there is potential in this more compact and relevant version.

“I do think it’s a good idea because it focuses more on the things you learn from the classroom instead of the seemingly random questions,” sophomore Patricia Yadao said.