On Saturday, thousands of students took the SAT for the last time before it moves to a redesigned format.
Next year, Yale will accept scores from the revamped test, which will be graded on a 1,600-point scale rather than a 2,400-point scale. The new test also features questions designed to be more related to students’ performance in school, rather than their ability to prepare for a standardized exam. The math section, for example, will have questions on higher-level concepts and multipart word problems. In addition, the new Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section will have more reading and eliminate vocabulary questions about obscure words. The essay section will evaluate critical analysis and is optional, though Yale will require applicants to take it.
“We are hopeful that the redesigned SAT will be an even better assessment than the current SAT,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said. “The content is more closely aligned with what students are learning in schools, and I think that has the potential to be really helpful in our process.”
Given the new test’s emphasis on critical analysis, preparation for the exam will be a more constructive way for students to spend their time and will be more relevant to performing well in college, Quinlan said. He added that he hopes the new test will be as predictive of student success as the current one.
Barbara Levine, owner of Acuity Tutoring And Test Prep, a test-preparation company in New Canaan and Darien, Connecticut, said it is impossible to determine at this point what impact the test will have on college admissions.
Though designed partly to eliminate advantages gained by students who use costly test-preparation services, the new test may actually widen the achievement gap among demographic groups, said Parke Muth, former associate director of admissions at the University of Virginia.
“The rigor of the new SAT is such that it may make it harder for these students who have not had strong teachers and strong prep for the test, and if this is the case then the tests will be harder for some groups,” Muth said.
Levine and Muth both said colleges will need time to collect data in order to compare the new test’s batch of scores to those on the 2,400-point scale. Levine said the College Board, which oversees the administration of the SAT, will release a “concordance table” to compare the two tests, though she noted that colleges are already used to the 1,600-point scale since that was the format until 2005. Scores from the new test’s first exam date, which is on March 5, will not be available until mid-May.
The changes to the test come amid a great transformational period in college admissions. In the fall, the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success — a group of over 80 selective colleges nationwide — announced its intention to create a new application that would increase college access for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And last Wednesday, a report from the Harvard School of Education called for emphasizing ethical conduct and good character in admissions, rather than long lists of achievements.
In the vein of enhancing opportunity, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization, to provide free test preparation materials for the redesigned SAT.
Quinlan said that as a membership organization composed of colleges and universities, the College Board’s efforts to make the SAT more relevant and transparent are important in bringing about necessary reforms to the college admissions process.
“The college admissions process does need to change and become more contemporary, and institutions like Yale and our peers need to work together to bring about that change,” Quinlan said. “Collective action can be more powerful than individual institutional action.”
A record 1.7 million students in the high school class of 2015 took the SAT, up from 1.67 million in the class of 2014.