SAT changes to affect fall ‘17 applicants

More specifications and sample questions will be released this month for the revamped SAT college exam set to begin being administered during the spring of 2016.

On March 5, College Board President and CEO David Coleman announced the changes at an event in Austin, Texas. The new exam will have three sections: evidence-based reading and writing, math and the essay. The scale scoring the exam will also return to 1600 points, as opposed to the 2400-point scale used since 2005.

According to the organization’s website, the alterations to the exam will be
“centered on eight key changes.”

Those changes include relevant words in context, command of evidence, essay analyzing a source, math focused on three key areas, problems grounded in real-world contexts, analysis in science and in social studies, founding documents and great global conversation and no penalty for wrong answers.

While information is already coming out about the new exam, Daniel Griffin, Oswego State’s director of admissions, said he believes the time to truly discuss the changes has yet to come.

“It’s really too early to say. We’re talking about the new exam being offered in March of 2016,” Griffin said. “The students taking the SAT exam in March 2016 and later, those are going to be students looking for admittance in the fall of ‘17.”

That being said, the admissions’ department has been through a similar process before. When the national average was reworked about 15 or 20 years ago, it went through a situation such as this. It was a gradual adjustment, but one made smoothly.

A change that has caught the attention of many has been the alterations coming to the essay portion of the exam, implemented just nine years ago. According to Griffin, College Board representatives came to the department’s conferences in the summer and did workshops to prepare them for the sections addition to the exam in 2005. He believes a route like that will likely be taken to prepare them for the adjustments coming in the next two years.

The essay section, which will no longer be a mandatory part of testing, according to the College Board website. The essay was not a section which Oswego State looked at in the first place so the changes to that portion will not have much of an impact on campus. But, Griffin said he still commends the SAT creators for taking a page from their counterparts, American College Testing (ACT).

“They’re taking their cue from the ACT. The ACT has now trumped the SATs. That was a big deal and that got the College Board’s attention,” Griffin said. “It is a big money-making machine. They have redesigned their exam to reattach it to what students are learning in school.”

However, Rachel Henderson, a school counselor at Oswego High School, believes the SATs are still not the lone standard to hold students to.

“I can see why schools want to use these tests as a predictor but they’re not an end-all-be-all,” Henderson said. “We have students that do well in school but don’t do well on these tests.”

Henderson said the new changes actually made her lose more faith in the exam. Henderson actually signed up her daughter for only the ACT and not the SAT. She believes the ACT is a better test on what students learn throughout high school.

“I think these tests are going to be in trouble because more schools are going test optional,” Henderson said. “Before they were just predictors of how students will do in college, but now they’re trying to test on what the students are learning in high school. But, they’re still just a predictor.”

According to College Board’s website, the exam will in fact be more focused on what students learn in high school. The test will see how well students know words they have used, and will use, throughout their lives. It will “engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom” and “no longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their pencils down.”

In addition, the math portion will be broken up into three areas: problem solving and data analysis, the heart of algebra, and passport to advanced math. Current research done by the organization supports that the three areas listed “most contribute to readiness for college and career training.”

The SAT will also turn some more focus of the exam toward science, social studies, “what is important for citizenship here and around the world,” and real-world application of topics. Another alteration to the exam, which resembles the ACT, is now there will be no penalty for wrong answers.

Griffin said he does not see the changes impacting the admissions process very much.

“I don’t really expect, from our point of view, too many changes,” Griffin said. “There may be some fluctuations and differences, but we still have some time to figure it out.”