New SAT Aims to Level the Field for Test-Takers, Better Predict College Success

Posted By Eliana Osborn on April 22, 2016 at 9:45 am
New SAT Aims to Level the Field for Test-Takers, Better Predict College Success

Taking the SAT during the spring of your junior year of high school was once a rite of passage for college-bound American teens. Now the ACT is accepted at more schools than the SAT and many campuses don’t even require standardized test scores.  No wonder College Board, the company behind the SAT, has revamped the test for 2016.

The first administration of the much anticipated new SAT took place the first weekend in March. Complaints about the old version, modified in 2005, include claims of bias, irrelevance to current curricula, and simply not being a good predictor of college success.

In the days leading up to the first airing of the new SAT, College Board released very little information about the test itself and limited who could actually take it.  According to a press release on the very day of testing, “Majority of SAT-takers found content to reflect what they’re learning in school. Students relying less on paid prep materials, more on free resources.”

The Khan Academy partnership, providing free tutorials and preparations for the SAT, has been touted as an improvement in access. In the past, students with funds could take private test prep courses and gain an advantage—often with promises of higher scores. Moving the SAT away from facts to be memorized to more critical thinking should also make the test less susceptible to cramming.

College Board surveyed more than 8,000 students (out of nearly 300,000 who took the test). One of the primary aims of the revamped SAT was to make it more closely mirror what is being asked of students in high school classrooms. Seventy-one percent of survey respondents agreed, and the vast majority said they prefer the new test to the old incarnation.

Another 150,000 students took the new SAT not at the Saturday date but during their regular school day. Partnerships between College Board and specific states or districts brought the total test taking up to the same levels as March 2015.

Another survey looked at a smaller selection of test takers. Kaplan Test Prep questioned 500 students about their initial reaction to the new SAT.  Fifty-nine percent said the test was easy to follow, and more than 80% chose to write the optional essay. In a nod to the changing landscape of college admissions, 56% said they were taking the ACT as well. After the SAT, 17% said they would change their plans and add an ACT test date.

Michael Boothroyd, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of college admissions programs, notes that they’ve seen tremendous year over year growth in ACT prep enrollment numbers. “More students may have decided to go with the known quantity or try their hand at both exams. This ACT growth was particularly interesting because much of it happened in traditional SAT territory. Virtually every college and university across the United States accept both exams and few openly express a preference for one or the other, so students are really empowered to choose whichever exam they want.”

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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