By Scarlett Neuberger ’15
Tick, tick, tick, tock. The booming jerks that marked each second, of every minute, for three hours, still resound in her skull. Scratch, scratch, scratch, smudge. The harsh movements of the pencils still grate in her ears. She, like many others, is traumatized. Traumatized by the maze of mouse traps of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, also known as, the SAT.
Students spend months going through intensive training to prepare for the war zone. They learn to bypass the traps, avoid the tricks, and dodge the obvious solutions. In short, the SAT is a mind game, and teenagers are its victims. According to the College Board 1,660,047 seniors took the SAT in 2013. Of those 1,660,047 only about 11,000 scored perfectly in critical reading, 13,000 in math and 6,000 in writing. While those may seem like large numbers, they work out to about .6 percent, .7 percent and .3 percent respectively. The majority of students fall within the 500 to 600 score range, which is considered mediocre. However, come 2016, this will all change. David Coleman, president of the College Board, announced a few weeks ago that the SAT is undergoing a transformation; one that will change it for the better. This transformation will make it easier for juniors to understand as well as draw on their actual high school learning experience.
The penalty for a wrong answer will be removed. The idea was to discourage guessing. If students are able to simply guess their way through the test, it doesn’t prove they’ve actually learned anything. Instead, it shows they are lucky, and know the process of elimination. Be that as it may, guessing is an integral part of any test taking process. By discouraging it, juniors taking the test are more likely to leave questions blank and receive zero points, rather than guess, guess wrong and lose points. They fear anything that will lower their score. Therefore, eliminating the penalty will remove that fear of guessing. And without that fear, students will be more likely to guess, and possibly boost their scores.
Obscure and pretentious vocabulary will be removed as well. While a large vocabulary is important for any person to possess, a rushed memorization of a large list of words, which are later forgotten, is not helpful. The new SAT vocabulary requirements will be of words that are used in real life and college settings. This makes them practical and functional. Also, the vocabulary will be more elite, making for a smaller list of words allowing students to remember them more thoroughly. Students will learn useful words and improve their scores.
To essay, or not to essay. Students will be given the choice of whether or not they wish to write one. The drawback to this change is colleges will not be given a gauge on students’ raw writing abilities. However, considering 25 minutes to write a well crafted, insightful and intelligent essay is nearly impossible, it is no wonder this archaic practice is ending. Plus, for students who are confident in their writing skills and are able to do just that in 25 minutes, the option is still available.
Perhaps the most dramatic change will be seen in the questions themselves. Currently, the questions cover a wide range of topics without any specific focal point. In addition, most of the questions use word play and trickery to seduce students into the wrong answer. The new SAT will be more centered on specific topics actually learned in high school. This will make preparing for the test easier because the material has already been studied. In this way it will also bring about higher scores. In addition, the test will revert to its original 1600 score total.
Although the changes have their handicaps, they do not outweigh the benefits. The changes in the SAT will make preparing and achieving higher scores easier. Students will do better, and as a result attend better colleges. And in the end, that is all high schoolers want.