Each year, over 1.5 million students take the SAT. Recently, experts in education have questioned the extent to which the test can serve its primary purpose: determining “college readiness.” In the past few weeks, the College Board has released plenty of information about a new, digitized SAT for 2024 that aims to gauge more accurately a student’s college readiness.
A number of critics say it could be the start of the end of the SAT as a whole.
Apart from digitization, one of the major changes to the test is its new adaptability. Each subject will be divided into two sections, and based on a student’s performance on the first section, an algorithm will determine the appropriate difficulty for the next section. The College Board says this change will help determine a test-taker’s score more efficiently and allow them to shorten the test time from three hours to only two. While the idea of a shorter test seems appealing to many, the concept of adaptability in a standardized test is also a bit confusing.
For example, if two students take this new SAT, their first sections in each subject will have the same level of difficulty. Student A gets everything right in his first section of reading, but this makes his second section harder, so he gets three questions wrong in section two. On the other hand, Student B gets three questions wrong in his first section, making his second section easier, where he is then able to get all of the questions correct. Albeit theoretical, this example highlights the major flaw in adaptive testing, which is that Student A had an objectively more difficult test than Student B, yet they both walked out with the same score in the reading section. The SAT is meant to provide colleges and universities with a common data point to compare all students, however with adaptability, this singular common data point is replaced with a test that may give the same score to people with vastly different levels of aptitude.
It seems like a last ditch effort for a dying standardized testing industry to stay relevant.Arnav Sardesai ’23
Fifth Former Arnav Sardesai says “It seems like a last ditch effort for a dying standardized testing industry to stay relevant. As someone who is studying for the ACT, I wish I had the option to take a shorter test, but part of the test is keeping up the intensity for three hours, and shortening it would take away some of the rigor.”
The new SAT will also offer a number of other changes. Instead of long reading passages with multiple questions, each passage will be just one paragraph, with just one question to answer per. Also, an in-built Desmos calculator will be available for every math problem on the test.
“Although I think the new changes on the SAT make it less stressful, it takes some of the challenge away from it. I personally disagree with the changes, but I think people who don’t prioritize the SAT will like them,” Fourth Former Max Zhang comments.
Akil Bello, a Senior Director at FairTest, points out in an article for Forbes that whenever new changes to the SAT are made, they often reverse another research-supported change that had been made in the past.
Akil Bello, a Senior Director at FairTest, points out in an article for Forbes that whenever new changes to the SAT are made, they often reverse another research-supported change that had been made in the past. For example, when the SAT v13.0 was introduced seventeen years ago with a running time of almost four hours, the College Board argued that a student’s fatigue was not a factor in test performance. However, avoiding test fatigue is part of the justification for the change to the upcoming shorter, digital test. New psychological and scientific evidence is expected to come out and be implemented, but in Bello’s opinion, the “constant tinkering with the test and producing research to support it raises questions about what standardized multiple-choice test performance actually demonstrates […] Perhaps 100 years and more than 15 versions have shown us that the test is more influenced by underlying design decisions and test-specific preparation than by content or question format.”
These questions surrounding the SAT and standardized testing in general have been around for years, and colleges’ thoughts on the topic can be reflected in the fact that nearly 80% of U.S. institutions have become test optional. In the incoming wave of no testing requirements, it could be that this new SAT is just one last hope to stay relevant.