The Story Behind the SAT Overhaul

You may have heard the news that the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is getting an overhaul. The essay portion that was added in 2005 will be made optional, and the rest of the test is going back to the old 1600-point scale. Questions will be replaced to bring them more in line with what students are being taught in the classroom, to try to level the playing field that has been upset in recent years by students who can afford test tutoring. Why? Because students, parents, teachers, and even colleges don’t like it. It’s stressful, interferes with regular classwork, and doesn’t even predict college success.

A growing number of colleges and universities, frustrated by the minimal change to the SAT when it was revised in 2005 and motivated by a report issued in 2008 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (Nacac), began to eliminate the SAT and its competitor, the A.C.T., as admission requirements, following the lead of several small, liberal-arts colleges that did so years before. The authors of the Nacac report cited a University of California study, which characterized the SAT as a “relatively poor predictor of student performance” and questioned the tendency of colleges to rely on the SAT as “one of the most important admission tools.” (Many of the schools that dropped test requirements saw spikes in their applications, at least in the first year.)

Around the time the report came out — and following the publication of “The Power of Privilege,” by the Wake Forest University sociology professor Joseph A. Soares, an account of the way standardized tests contributed to discriminatory admissions policies at Yale — Wake Forest became the first highly rated institution (it regularly appears as a Top 30 university on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings) to announce a test-optional admissions policy. Follow-up studies at Wake Forest showed that the average high-school G.P.A. of incoming freshmen increased after the school stopped using standardized-test scores as a factor. Seventy-nine percent of its 2012 incoming class was in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes. Before going test-optional, that figure was in the low 60s. In addition, the school became less homogeneous. “The test highly correlates with family income,” says Soares, who also edited a book that, in part, examines the effects of making the SAT optional at the University of Georgia, Johns Hopkins University and Wake Forest. “High-school grades do not.” He continued, “We have a lot more social, racial and lifestyle diversity. You see it on campus. Wake Forest was a little too much like a J. Crew catalog before we went test-optional.”

The new test will not be introduced until the spring of 2016 -too late for all my children. Only time will tell if the changes are an improvement. The New York Times has the story of how the SAT became something other than what it was intended to be, and how the changes for 2016 came about. -via Digg


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For me it was 40 years ago. No big deal, it was just one of those things that the few of us who planned to go to college did. We didn't stress over it, and we certainly didn't prepare. I got a National Merit Scholarship out of it. My reaction was, "Cool."
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Always? You're absolutely sure? It was a long time ago for me (about 20 yrs ago), but in the college applications, I don't remember any wording to that effect. (I applied to a few state schools and a few 'name' schools.) I applied to the Johns, which I do remember did not require test scores but asked for 3 essays.
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