SAT. The three little letters that caused so much stress for students in their final years of high school. They seemed to define their chances of getting into college as well as their overall intelligence. This is why there was so much outrage when the news broke that the SAT we all knew and detested is being changed for future generations.
College Board President David Coleman stated that the reasons for the change were to expand opportunity for students. “It is time to admit that the SAT and ACT have become disconnected from the work of our high schools…” He said he hoped the new test would eliminate the “sense of mystery and dismantle the advantages that people perceive in using costly test preparation.”
As for the actual changes, the exam will no longer use the 2400-point scale but rather revert to the pre-2005 method of a 1600-point scale. In addition, wrong answers will no longer receive a point deduction. This is a huge change from the past, where wrong answers led to a quarter point deduction and blank questions were deduction-free. This new model emboldens students to try every question without fear of guessing incorrectly and losing points, augmenting the potential score.
In addition, the dreaded SAT vocabulary section is being remodeled. No longer will students have to spend hours memorizing difficult words. The SAT will now focus on words that “are widely used in college and career.” The essay portion is now optional and students are given 50 minutes rather than 25 to complete it. It will ask students to analyze evidence and they will be graded based on “strength of the analysis as well as the coherence of the writing.”
Finally, the reading sections of the test will become more predictable, rather than the wide range of any source or topic that was allowed previously. Students will read texts from disciplines like science, history and social studies and be asked to “analyze them the way they would in those classes.”
These changes could be written off as irrelevant to our futures as we enter graduate schools and the job market, but in fact, our SAT scores stay with us past college acceptances. According to a recent Business Insider article, a number of employers, including big names like Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and Bain, are using SAT scores as a method to predict the success of their future employees during the hiring process. The reason why these employers are using a test that for most students is pretty removed in the past is that the SAT is perceived as a measure of “general intelligence and general ability.” According to Jonathon Wai, an intelligence researcher at Duke University, general ability “actually predicts occupational success across a range of occupations.”
Unfortunately for college students, this means that the new exam, which is supposed to make the test more focused on content and skills learned in the classroom, will probably augment the scores of our younger counterparts. One of the big disadvantages of the old SAT was that students were thrown off by unpredictability of the exam, and due to anxiety or undeveloped test-taking skills, scored poorly. Now, SAT scores will correlate to high school GPAs for the most part, which was not always true in the past.
This will create overall higher scores in general for the generations below us, which won’t do us any favors in the job market. In regards to one of the changes, freshman Isabelle Cruz stated, “It doesn’t really seem fair that students aren’t going to be penalized for wrong answers anymore. This was a deciding factor in why I chose to take the ACT, but I also didn’t like the science section on the ACT, so it was a lose-lose situation.” If employers think that SAT exams are a standardized way to measure ability, they should be wary that all SATs are not created equal after these developments.
It does seem like the new SAT will make it easier for students to do better with less anxiety, and will more accurately measure their abilities rather than their test-taking skills or what they learned from a pricey tutor. However, for those of us in college, we already dealt with the old SAT. We had to use those scores for college and will have to use those scores for jobs. As a freshman, I only took the SAT a year ago, and I know I won’t forget the stress it caused me. Perhaps GPA or achievements in college might be a better measure of not only intelligence but also work ethic, rather than a test that isn’t standardized across generations anymore.