The SAT college admission test is to undergo a drastic change to enable a level playing field for students belonging to different economic and social backgrounds. The overhaul of the test, which has undergone changes only twice in this century , is intended to make higher education more accessible to students who are currently unable to take the test.
The redesign, which was announced on Wednesday, is to come into effect in early 2016, when students belonging to the ninth grade today will be undergoing college admission tests. The proposed changes include making the standard timed essay optional, focusing less on the students knowing ‘ fancy words ‘ and returning to the familiar 1600-point scoring scale . Long standing critics of the SAT had always argued that the test, in its current form was giving undue advantages to students belong to affluent families, who could afford to go for expensive ‘test prep’ courses offered by private coaching institutions, designed to give them an edge over students who could not afford such short term courses.
David Coleman, who is the head of the College Board since 2012, in his statement, criticized the ‘test prep industry‘ saying “The College Board cannot stand by while some test-prep providers intimidate parents at all levels of income into the belief that the only way they can secure their child’s success is to pay for costly test preparation and coaching. If we believe that assessment must be a force for equity and excellence, it’s time to shake things up.” He further added that the in order to provide equal opportunities to all students, the College Board will tie up with the non profit Khan Academy, which provides free tutorials and courses in various subjects online through the organization’s website.
In the redesign, no longer will students have to face the “SAT words”, always deemed to be too obscure; which had long prompted students to cram using flash cards and other gimmicks. The test will now focus on words that are commonly used in colleges and high schools today. Also the practice of deducting a quarter point for each wrong answer, which was undertaken to discourage random guesses will also be discontinued. Moreover, the compulsory timed essay, introduced nine years ago will also be changed. The essay will remain, but it will become optional.
Other changes would include asking students to analyze key moments and documents that led to the founding of the USA. The College Board officials hoped that this, along with the other changes will go a long way towards making the SAT more accessible and grounded to test what students actually learn during their high school tenure. The proposed changes, if implemented will bring back the SAT total score to 1600 from the current 2400, and one of the most iconic figures of 20th century America will again be possible: the perfect SAT score.
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