Applicants to the Yale class of 2021 will be the first batch of students to have the option of submitting test results from the redesigned SAT.
The College Board, which oversees the SAT, announced in March 2014 that it would revise the SAT and rolled out the first new test on March 5. The redesigned test has made the essay portion of the writing section optional and combined the writing and critical reading sections to yield a total possible score of 1600 rather than 2400. The College Board also removed the penalty for incorrect answers and created a digital version of the test.
Maria Eugenia Alcón-Heraux, director of media relations for the College Board, said the motivation for the change was to make the SAT a more equitable test as well as a better indicator of the test taker’s college readiness.
Alcón-Heraux said the College Board resigned the SAT based on feedback from students, parents and sources in secondary and higher education.
“When students take the SAT, they can focus on showing their strengths: not on tricks and strategies,” Alcón-Heraux said.
According to Alcón-Heraux, the College Board has received an “overwhelmingly positive response” from students, adding that for every one student who said they preferred the original SAT, seven said the new one is better. She added that 72 percent of test takers indicated that the new SAT reflects what they are learning at school.
According to a March 5 CNN article on the new test, the changes to the SAT came as the ACT began to see a rise in popularity, with multiple states adopting the competing test as part of their standardized testing programs.
Sam Hamway, a senior at West Central Morris High School in New Jersey, said he avoided the old SAT entirely because of its negative reputation among his peers.
However, Hamway, who took the ACT, said he still distrusts the new version of the test because he is worried that the new test might have some issues.
When College Board President and CEO David Coleman initially announced the changes to the SAT, he explicitly identified some of the failings in the previous version of the test.
“Admissions officers and counselors have said they find the data from admissions exams useful, but are concerned that these exams have become disconnected from the work of high school classrooms and surrounded by costly test preparation,” Coleman said at an announcement event in Austin, Texas.
Catharine Berry-Toon, a high school senior attending Blair Academy, a boarding school in New Jersey, said she preferred the new SAT to the old version.
“The new SAT is a lot easier to work through,” Berry-Toon said. “I had a lot more time to finish each section. The questions were a lot more related to one another, especially in the reading section.”
Still, Berry-Toon said she is skeptical of college entrance exams in general because performance on standardized tests is not always correlated with performance in class.
Starting this year, the College Board is making free practice tests and test preparation resources available online through its partner, Khan Academy. It also geared the test more toward topics students learn at school by removing obscure vocabulary and only including math questions that have been shown to predict college success.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions states on its website that it will not “mix and match” scores from the old and new test, and will instead treat both separately.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said he applauded the College Board’s effort to promote “equity and excellence” by redesigning the SAT to better reflect the work students do in the classroom.
Quinlan added that he was pleased with the College Board’s new move to allow low-income students to send their scores to four colleges for free.
These reforms send an important message to high schools students across the country, Quinlan said.
“Getting ready for college should never be about tricks or last-minute cramming,” Quinlan said. “The redesigned SAT is on the right path in its transparency and openness, and that it sends the clear signal that if you work hard and achieve, we in higher education will work to open doors for you.”
Quinlan said his office is tracking data on students’ performance on the redesigned SAT, but noted that it is still too early to properly analyze trends from the information collected.
Eighty percent of Yale’s class of 2020 scored 700 or higher on the critical reading section, as well as 81 percent in the math section and 81 percent in the writing section.