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SAT revamp falls short

Published: March 27, 2014, 11:18 pm ET
Opinions Editor

The College Board recently announced, effective spring 2016, the SAT will be completely redesigned. The website outlines the basic changes that include a return to the 1600-point scale, no penalties for wrong answers and three newly organized sections: evidence-based reading and writing, math and the essay. The College Board explains the motivation for these changes, claiming that the new test is better aligned with “college readiness and success.” Despite these claims, the SAT will still fail to capture many aspects of intelligence that can influence success in college.

Do you remember being a 17-year-old at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning? In my experience, this was most definitely not a time I felt confident about my brainpower. I can recall going to sleep extra early the night before the big test, with a Ziploc baggie on my desk filled with 27 No. 2 pencils, a calculator and extra erasers. The next day I woke up in a nervous fog feeling as if my entire life depended on the coming hours.

It didn’t. Four years later, I can safely say my SAT score has neither altered my college experience nor severely impacted my life. It may have helped get my acceptance to University of Richmond. However, Nate Crozier, admissions associate, said there were “several important factors [considered] when selecting candidates for admission.”

In my opinion, the SAT, at the extreme expense of students, is a way to make the job of the admissions officers easier. It’s a simple strategy to attack the initial, overwhelming load of applications: Below average SAT scores go straight into the “no” pile. What doesn’t add up in this equation is how arduous the preparation for the test is for students and how fairly insignificant the scores are in college. Moreover, and even more infuriating, is how little this silly test captures about a prospective student.

Hours of practice work, hundreds of dollars spent on prep classes and stress levels shooting through the roof are all for what? An arbitrary score that may or may not put an application in the “yes” pile? Students have more to offer than just that arbitrary number, and strengths range from musical gifts to comic genius. Colleges do seek these passions and extracurricular activities — they are a major part of the application process. Crozier said “essays, recommendations, co-curricular activities and potential for contribution” were all deliberated during application season.

However, a serious irony exists here. There are only so many minutes in a day, days in a week and weeks in the short amount of time that can be allotted to SAT prep. With such a massive emphasis on standardized test scores, much of this time is dedicated to practice problems and long-winded parent-child discussions about performing well. Focus on guitar lessons, reading a book for leisure, writing for the school newspaper and traveling all get lost in the crossfire, which consequently gives students less to discuss in many parts of their applications.

I applaud schools that have omitted the requirement of standardized test scores. I believe it shows a shift to modern thinking and recognition of the wider range of creative intelligence and budding success. Richmond has not jumped on the bandwagon yet, although in 2009, according to Crozier, there was discussion of implementing a test-optional policy.

Come spring 2016, we will see how the new test fairs. Although, I will remain a firm believer that no matter what the changes, forcing an overworked, stress-ridden high school student to sit still and fill in bubbles for four hours is a poor way to measure intelligence and predict success.

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  • ElLoboGrande

    You literally cited no evidence to your opinion.

    The SAT empirically is a decent predictor of college grades and future success; my impression is you have never examined the evidence. My honest impression is that you think you’re a special snowflake who is much smarter then their test scores indicate; grow up.