College Board to revamp SAT for class of 2017


Amanda Tu

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Students in the class of 2017 can expect major changes to the SAT when they take the practice exam their junior year.

The College Board, the national organization that administers the SAT, is planning to make modifications to all three sections of the test, the first changes since 2005.

On the critical reading portion, the exam will eliminate usage of obscure vocabulary words like “salubrious” and “concomitant” in favor of those more commonly used in everyday conversation.

‘‘By changing the exam’s focus, we change the learning and work the SAT invites. Today, many students who are terrified they will be tested on lots of SAT words have one recourse: flashcards,’’ said College Board President David Coleman. ‘‘Every educator knows flashcards are not the best way to build real word knowledge, but when the SAT rolls around they become the royal road. Students stop reading and start flipping.’’

Curriculum changes are also expected for the math section, which will now focus on specific skills such as algebra that are most applicable to real-world situations. Calculators will now be prohibited on certain math questions.

The writing section, which currently requires students to craft a reasoned argument based on a short prompt, will become optional, as it is on the ACT. As a result, the total exam score will be calculated out of a total of 1,600 points instead of 2,400. Additionally, the essay prompt will now ask students to analyze arguments instead of coming up with entirely original explanations. This change is in part a response to criticisms that the current essay grading rubric encourages test-takers to make up ridiculous examples to perfectly support their theses.

On all three portions of the exam, students will no longer be penalized for incorrect answers, a system that was intended to discourage guessing.

Students will also have the choice to take their test on a computer.

Mr. Anthony Crush, ACT prep coach and former Manual teacher, agreed with most of the planned reforms, but noted that the alterations should be implemented over time. “I believe that changes need to be made, but on a more gradual basis,” he said. “This will subsequently impact how students are prepared and the strategies that are taught to ensure their success… The bottom line is this: relevant and effective test prep strategies will continue to be offered at Manual to Manual students. As soon as these strategies are identified and proven effective, they will be shared with the Manual faculty. Until then, remember that there is no substitute for raw and hard-earned knowledge. At the end of the day, this is all colleges are trying to quantitatively evaluate.”

Vaannila Annadurai (9, MST) is concerned that the current freshman will be the first to take the modified SAT. “I’ve heard that the questions are going to be more based on what we can use real life, which is great because I feel like most of standardized testing is something we will never need to know when we become adults,” she said. “It’s also somewhat scary because we are the first grade to get these new tests so we can’t ask the upperclassmen about it. It also might be super difficult and I’m scared all of our scores would be relatively low compared to those who have taken the test before us.”

The PSAT is the exam that determines National MeritAccording to Ms. Johnston, Manual teachers and counselors have not yet received instruction about the updated tests.