Most students have already heard of the big change in standardized testing that is planned to be implemented at the start of 2016 – the redesigned SAT. From the formatting of the test to the content within, the redesigned SAT will now more resemble the current ACT than its former version. For students, this change might be a bit nerve-wracking, since these tests are one of a few major factors of college admission.
The 2016 SAT will feature a drastic change from the existing test; the biggest change is the removal of penalties for wrong answers. Previously, ¼ of a point was taken off for each wrong answer. The change means that students do not have to waste their time pondering whether or not it is worth it to make a guess.
The essay will also feature new content. Instead of a personal essay, the new SAT will feature a passage and the student must explain how the author persuades the audience. Similarly to the new essay, the reading section will have passages that focus on finding evidence. For example, a question will be asked about the text, and students will have to identify which piece of evidence best supports the answer. Moreover, the reading section will not have the standard vocabulary section. Instead it will consist of more familiar words with various meanings, like “concentrated,” “emotional,” or “determined.” The new SAT will feature more graphs and charts that allow students to analyze given details and information just like the science section in the ACT. Students will have to alter sentences to match the graphs given to them.
Although these changes may seem drastic and abrupt, students will have the ability to access free test prep materials online. One way students can access online test prep through Khan Academy, which has partnered with the College Board to produce its SAT prep material. This means that students do not have to sign up for programs with test readiness organizations that often cost a lot of money. Interestingly, the Khan Academy test prep might be the best preparation material available to students due to the company’s exclusive partnership with the College Board.
Even though standardized tests are traditionally considered to provide a universal way of quantifying students’ skills and to ensure fairness, many colleges are now putting the emphasis on other aspects such as GPA, activities, recommendations, and essays, rather than the numbers found in a standardized test’s score report.
The University of Pennsylvania is just one institution to have changed its testing requirements for the 2015-2016 school year. While applicants considering the STEM (Science. Technology, Engineering, Math) fields are recommended to take the Math 2 SAT subject test and as well as a science based subject test, candidates no longer have to take the subject tests as an essential requirements, or even the essay portion of the SAT or ACT.
Eric Furda, UPenn dean of admissions, says that “the decision to no longer require the essay portion of the SAT or ACT is one we considered carefully,” and “our internal analysis as well as a review of the extensive research provided by the College Board showed that the essay component of the SAT was the least predictive element of the overall Writing section of the SAT…we could no longer support requiring the essay portion of either exam given its weaker predictive power.”
These simplified testing requirements allow students to spend their valuable times on other parts of the application process, such as the Common App essays and supplements or maintaining their GPA. Colleges across America are moving towards a new way of looking at students so that a number on a single test no longer serves to define or describe a person in a fullest sense and will not be one of the major factors in deciding an admission to a school. As juniors and seniors at RHS prepare for the daunting college application process, hopefully this change will facilitate the process so that they may be able to take a break, for once.