Resetting Standards

This past winter, the College Board disclosed the major alterations that would take effect in the newly developed, 1,600-point-scale SAT, scheduled to take effect in the spring of 2016. Some key changes include the absence of the previously mandatory essay section, no point deduction for incorrectly guessed answers, the elimination of “obscure” English words throughout the exam, the more narrow range of concepts in the math section and the inclusion of scientific and historical texts in the reading section of the SAT. Although the SAT, according to the College Board, presumably changed in order to better suit students with evidence-based reasoning skills, critical thinking and down-to-earth experience, many claim that the change occurred in order to attract more students to take the SAT rather than the ACT, the primary rival of the SAT. Last year, 1.8 million students took the ACT while only 1.7 million took the SAT, according to an article published in “The New York Times.” For some people, like Shaan Patel, Director of SAT Programs for Veritas Prep, these changes to the SAT indicated that the College Board had begun taking measures against the ACT. Patel stated, “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.” If this is true — that an objective of the College Board’s new SAT is directed at cajoling students to take their test, is it really going to help foster students to succeed in college and beyond? Merely creating a similar version of the ACT does not rectify the problems of the SAT. Rather, it takes away the aspects that distinguished the SAT from other standardized tests. Standardized tests, in general, seem too typical of a way to evaluate college applicants. Almost anyone can memorize words, learn to solve math problems or acquire basic grammar skills. Instead, an ideal college admissions test would assess students based on their ability to cope with real-world situations or problem solving that would ultimately help them beyond college too. Some students tend to care more about their SAT or ACT scores than their extracurricular activities or individual interests and passions. People should, however, focus more on developing skills on subjects they want to pursue as a major or profession. In place of the SAT or ACT, colleges should require students to submit a portfolio of their compiled works and experiences (comprised of works aside from school exams or papers). This can allow admission offices to organize applicants by their field of interest, judge students’ expertise in different situations or self-given assignments and allow students to express their talents in novel, creative ways. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests’ fundamental mission is to “assess students’ academic readiness for college.” That does not indicate that one has had to crouch over a desk, answering multiple-choice questions for three hours on top of countless hours of preparation. In that time, one can travel, attain world-wide experience and knowledge, explore pastimes and discover various ideas or concepts in the world. Though the College Board’s endeavor towards redesigning the SAT remains commendable, the lack of the SAT’s ability to evaluate the students’ real-world-problem-solving prowess in a unique, distinguishable way leaves doubt for the practical application of the knowledge tested on the test.