Editorial: The new SAT is not about making it easier—it’s about business
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The College Board recently revealed news of its impending changes to the SAT. Such news brought about outcries of anger and frustration from Townsend Harris students, namely the juniors.
In 2016, the SAT will revert to a 1600-point scale, the essay component will be optional, the obscure vocabulary and point deduction system will be removed, and the math section will involve more complex calculations. For the most part, students are more focused on the “inequality” of these changes rather than the actual changes themselves.
While a majority of the complaints against the new SAT have centered around its supposed ease, nothing could be further from the truth. Students are selectively hearing what they want: the test is becoming easier with the removal of the writing section and the guess penalty. What students fail to realize is that the College Board has to compensate for removing an entire section, and that it is doing so by intensifying the rigor of the critical reading and mathematics sections.
Previously, the critical reading section was a selection of literary samples followed by a few questions. The new evidence-based reading and writing sections will feature source documents ranging from science articles to major historical documents to literary samples. In addition to reading things besides stories and poems, students will have to cite from the text to support their answer. By forcing students to quote from the text, the College Board is attempting to remove doubts surrounding whether the student truly understood the question, or if the student simply got lucky with a guess. This type of question will also be prevalent in college, because often it doesn’t matter what answer you got, but how you got to the answer.
The mathematics section currently focuses on algebra, geometry, and a bit of algebra 2. The new and improved mathematics section will focus on three areas: linear equations, complex equations or functions, and ratios, percentages, and proportional reasoning. These areas of math are getting particular attention because they are often prerequisites for advanced math in college. In addition, calculators will no longer be allowed during certain sections.
The essay and the writing sections were added to the SAT in March 2005. The new essay will require students to write an essay in which they explain how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience. Such a task will be essential throughout college, whereas the current essay questions offer little practical value.
Students may dislike a lot about the new SAT, but the one thing they cannot say is that the test is easier. The SAT is being redesigned into a test that can challenge students to think critically, and we commend that change.
However, lost in the conversation of inequality is what is really going on: a business decision. We complain about the fairness of the current class of students taking a test that the freshmen will never have to take, but we forget that the real trouble comes from the testing culture that insists upon the importance of the College Board’s assessment of us over the assessment of the teachers who see us every day. With the ACT on the rise, the College Board merely wants to stay in the game, and the real issue is that education should not be caught up in the competition of two entities that have vested interests in maintaining our country’s obsessions with testing as the only means to understand a student’s capabilities.