New SAT provides beneficial changes

September 16, 2015 — by Apoorv Kwatra and Trevor Leung

As almost all teens already know, College Board will be switching to a newly designed SAT next March. The revised SAT will hold many benefits for students who take it in future years, but most current juniors are avoiding it precisely because it is new and unknown.

As almost all teens already know, College Board will be switching to a newly designed SAT next March. The revised SAT will hold many benefits for students who take it in future years, but most current juniors are avoiding it precisely because it is new and unknown.

College Board specifically redesigned the SAT so that it is more useful to students and a more accurate indicator of future success in college. The revamped test is more closely aligned with the Common Core standards and thus levels the playing field for students in different states and from different backgrounds.

The idea is that scoring well on the SAT will no longer be a privilege granted only to those who can afford expensive test prep services.

For example, the new SAT will include more graphs and charts, even in the reading section. This change provides students who are visual learners with questions on which they can do well. Furthermore, the new SAT will no longer test students on the obscure words that most students will rarely ever use.

Instead, the critical reading section of the new SAT will test students on more common words that have many meanings and whose definitions may be extrapolated from context. Another major change is the optional and improved essay section. The new essay’s format will be 50-minutes long, twice the length given for the current essay. Students will also be given a passage to read and asked to use evidence from the passage to explain the author’s meaning, whereas the current essay gives students just a quote and a question.

The new essay structure is more reasonable since it incorporates more writing techniques that students are learning and practicing in school, such as analyzing evidence from a text to support a claim. The extra time also allows students to write to their potential.

Finally, the revamped SAT will be based on a 400-1600 scale, the point system the SAT used before the current version of the SAT was introduced in 2005. The test will include four answer choices rather than five for each question and will remove the penalty for wrong answers on the multiple choice. Just having fewer answer choices is bound to improve students' chances of getting a correct answer, and encouraging educated guessing is also likely to increase scores.

Some may claim that such changes will inflate test scores. However, this advantage will be available to everyone, so no one will get an unfair advantage.

But despite the new SAT’s benefits, many are rushing to take the old SAT before it changes next year. According to a poll of 85 juniors conducted by the Falcon, 92 percent of students will opt for the current SAT. This might be because the new SAT, as it’s approaching its guinea pig year, has few test preparation materials. Future junior classes would do well to take new SAT, but current juniors would benefit from taking the current SAT, as they will have had more time to prepare and more preparation materials.

This transition year for the SAT has evidently left current juniors in a tough position. They can only do what we frenzied high school students have always done: study as hard as possible and hope for the best.

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