SAT originally stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. But in the 1960s, that name was challenged because an aptitude test by definition couldn’t be coachable. Then the College Board rebranded their exam as the Scholastic Achievement Test. That didn’t fly either, probably because the only achievement involved was how well students did on their exam. Now SAT, in the tradition of other great corporate initials such as EPCOT, stands for….nothing.
On the plus side, the College Board may be anachronistic and Machiavellian, but is not change averse. In the ’90s, they shook things up with a writing section, increasing the top possible score to a formidable 2400. Around the same time they got rid of the iconic analogies because of cultural bias, triggered by a notorious oarsman:regatta comparison.
So it should come as no surprise that the SAT is once again undergoing a drastic renovation. And although the College Board claims to be a nonprofit company, it makes perfect sense to think about market share. As a result, the new SAT is morphing into its unsophisticaed midwestern cousin, the kinder, gentler ACT, which has been trending big time in urban areas.
The new version, launching in 2016 (affecting ninth graders and below) strives to become more “relevant” by:
- Cutting out “obscure” vocabulary
- Ending the penalty for guessing
- Making the essay optional
- Returning to scoring on a 1600 scale
- Allowing computers
- Using “founding documents” such as the Declaration of Independence for reading comprehension
- Offering free Kahn Academy prep online, and
- Focusing on “Command of Evidence” (whatever that is) “…found in a wide range of sources, including informational graphics”
Here is a graphic used on the SAT site to illustrate that the new exam will have “problems grounded in a real-world context,” with “passages…paired with informational graphics.” If spiky Europe is an indication of what is to come, these new graphics should be a blast to interpret.
Sadly, this could be too little too late. These changes will cause even more kids to gravitate to the friendly ACT, which rarely changes, and will not leaving the tutors scrambling.
The Neurotic Parent Institute has just released findings of a study showing that if the SAT really wants to re-engage test-takers, it will have to alter its exam by truly making it more relevant in the following ways:
- Changing the start time to 1pm, the hour when most teenagers wake up
- Granting extended time for anyone who requests it, evening the playing field by waiving the $5000 testing specialist fees
- Offering valet parking, Red Bull and Frappuccinos (granola bars are so 20th century)
- Allowing unlimited texting and Googling during the exam (relevant research skills for college students)
- Instituting Phone-a-Friend-in-Another-Time-Zone, the opportunity to Skype with someone where the exam has already been administered
So sharpen your #2s, ninth graders. Here’s to relevance in test taking.