Starting in March, there will be changes to the 2016 SAT exam. These changes have sparked a lot of discussion on whether they will be beneficial or detrimental to students. The math portion will be focusing on fewer subject areas and there will be more emphasis on the student’s reasoning skills. The Essay portion of the exam will be optional, and students are given 50 minutes to complete it. Finally, there will be no more ¼ point deduction for incorrect answers.
College Board President David Coleman states that these changes were made in an effort to level the playing field and make the test more applicable to what students are learning in schools. He believes that the SAT has becomes “far too disconnected” from the education system.
Some education professionals say the new SAT will better measure student achievement, while others say it could lower standards. Some argue that these changes are making the SAT much better for students. Shaan Patel, owner of 2400 Expert, agrees with this. The lack of obscure vocabulary will take away the hours of useless memorization, allowing students to focus more on topics which need to be learned in order to comprehend questions. She also states that the test will be easier due to the fact that there will be less choices for the multiple choice, leaving test takers with a 25% chance of answering correctly, should they guess. Additionally, students will now have twice as long to write the essay(50 minutes, compared to the previous 25) and there will be 16 fewer questions on the test. This less rigorous format will decrease test taking anxiety, allowing students to perform to the best of their abilities, rather than being compromised by fear.
On the other hand, there are many who are not convinced that the changes being made are a good thing. On a quick hunt through internet education and parenting forums, many parents seem to share the sentiment that this easier SAT, will be lowering the standards for college entrance. In addition to this, College Board has stated that “that the first test in the new format — the March 2016 SAT — will not have scores reported until after the May 2016 results are analyzed, as well.” This will be done in order to ensure that questions are performing in the way they were intended and that there is an appropriate range of scores. Although sensible, this will make it more difficult for juniors who want to apply early to schools to know whether or not to retake the SAT in May. By the time they receive their scores back from the first SAT taken(in March) there will be no more time.There is also no certain way to know how colleges will feel about this new format of the SAT. While the current SAT is widely accepted and valued by most schools, it will be hard for applicants to know if Admissions Counselors will see the test as too easy, and discredit it, or not consider it when reviewing an application.
There is no clear way to tell what the effects of the new SAT format will be for at least a few more months. However, whichever test your student chooses to take, it is important to be aware of the facts, and inform yourself and your test taker in order to be prepared for test day and succeed.
Amanda De Moraes
Boston Tutoring Services