SAT Returns to the Drawing Board…Again

The College Board recently announced to members of its board that it plans to redesign the SAT, but specifics on how and when the changes will occur remain unclear. The changes will be made in the 7-year wake of the last SAT overhaul, which took place in 2005 and featured the addition of a writing section and the removal of the much-derided analogy questions. While we have yet to see how these changes will impact the next generation of test takers, members of the education community have already begun speculating on how, why and when changes will be unveiled.

In his letter to College Board members, David Coleman, President of the College Board, wrote that the next changes would be made in the interest of “focusing on a core set of knowledge and skills that are essential to college and career success; reinforcing the practice of enriching and valuable schoolwork; fostering greater opportunities for students to make successful transitions into postsecondary education; and ensuring equity and fairness.”

Speculators were quick to point out Coleman’s public criticism of the writing section, suggesting that may be a major target in the redesign. Coleman has complained that the writing section encourages test-takers to make arguments without encouraging the application of facts to support their arguments. In a world where rapid information technology poses huge challenges for academic honesty and integrity, it seems counterintuitive to encourage young minds to generate opinions without researching and citing factual support.

Since it remains to be seen how the test will change, many observers have been scrutinizing why the College Board feels changes to the SAT are necessary at this time. The general consensus in the education community is that upcoming redesign is a direct response to ever-increasing competition from the ACT. Until recently, the ACT’s popularity among college applicants remained confined to the Midwestern states. Last year, however, was the first year in which more students took the ACT than the SAT. The margin was small, but no less significant given that this is the first time in the history of either test that the ACT has won out over the SAT.

For more information, check out this article from Inside HigherEd.

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