Changes to Come: A New SAT


Bianca Stelian

Though the college admissions process is already quite controversial, its most disputed aspect is the standardized testing. For over half a century, applicants have been taking and retaking the SAT or the ACT in the hopes of achieving a score high enough to “guarantee” their chances of admission. Many issues have been raised with the system, including arguments that tests only cater to a certain type of student, or that the material on the exams is unnecessary to learn. In response to increasing complaints about its content as well as competition from the ACT, the SAT has recently announced changes being made to its material.

For all you freshman reading the Forum, you’re in luck – the class of 2017 is the only one who will benefit from the new SAT. As the changes will take place in spring 2016, current juniors and seniors will already have graduated and current sophomores will have already passed their application deadlines. The SAT nixed the difficult vocab words and removed the stressful wrong-answer penalty, while adding questions and an essay that require analytical skills, providing more real-world context problems.

I discussed the new SAT with a tutor at a local test prep company, who raved about the changes being made. “The biggest change, in my opinion, in the removal of the guessing penalty,” she said, referring to the current SAT’s quarter-point penalty on any wrong answer. “Students now won’t be deterred from taking educated guesses, and most of the time, their instincts are on point.” Another beneficial change she brought up was the removal of the hard vocabulary questions. “The ACT is so popular because it encourages students to focus on applying their current knowledge, rather than forcing them to spend hours studying new material, like vocab words. As an adult, nobody is ever going to need to know the definition of ‘lugubrious,’ and thankfully, the SAT has taken note of this.”

I also spoke with Ms. Pleshette, the director of college counseling at Latin, regarding the SAT changes. She noted that in the first year or two of the new SAT, students will not be able to use “a certain test-prep company,” as she put it, to prepare; there will be no platform on which the tutors will be able to provide insight, having no access to practice tests. “It’s a very interesting experience the freshmen will go through,” she said, and it will certainly create a change in the typical testing process of a Latin student. However it seems that the vast majority of students at Latin take the ACT, so the SAT changes won’t really affect many people. Ms. Pleshette was quick to correct me on this, explaining, “About two-thirds of students take the ACT, while one-third takes the SAT. But of the two-thirds, there is some crossover for students who take both.” She kept things practical, saying, “It’s just a test.” Right she is – it seems like test scores constantly stress people out, but in reality, a number will not dictate anyone’s worth as a human being. Whatever score you might get, you’re still pretty cool in my book – as long as it isn’t a test prep book.