Beginning in March 2005, the SAT will have a very different look. Here at Duke University, and at other colleges across the country, freshmen entering in the fall of 2006 will be the first group of students affected by the revision, the tenth in the test’s 76-year history. Because almost 1.5 million high school seniors take the SAT each year, and an additional million take its competitor, the ACT, the proposed changes have created a national stir among students, high schools, and college admissions officers.
Why is the SAT Being Revised?
All psychological and educational tests must undergo revision to remain accurate, contemporary, and valid. The SAT is no exception. The College Board, its publisher, hopes to align it more precisely with what students learn in high school and to increase its ability to predict college success—the primary purpose of the test.
Critics contend that the College Board is revising the test in response to a proposal made by Dr. Richard C. Atkinson, president of the University of California system, to eliminate the SAT as a requirement for entry into California universities, which serve almost 150,000 undergraduates and represents the College Board’s single largest market. Atkinson reportedly supports the proposed changes.
What are the proposed changes?
Three main changes will be made. Two of the SAT’s most formidable, and most dreaded, sections will be dropped: verbal analogies and quantitative comparisons. A new “critical reading” section will consist of a 30-minute essay and multiple-choice grammar questions. Finally, the math section will include problems from third-year high school math, primarily Algebra II. Each section will be graded on a scale of 200 to 800, and the highest possible score for the test as a whole will be 2400.
Will It Be a Better Test?
Only time (and careful research) will tell whether the new SAT more successfully predicts college achievement. It is unlikely that the revision will put an end to the criticism that the test is unfair to minority groups and economically disadvantaged students. Indeed, no test can eliminate the advantages that some students enjoy by virtue of the homes, schools, and communities in which they are raised. Furthermore, it would be unrealistic to expect any test to accomplish what is an educational, and not a testing, issue: ensuring that all students are appropriately challenged and held to high standards.
—Steven I. Pfeiffer, Ph.D