The College Board has announced major changes to the SAT format (sometimes called SATs, and officially the SAT Reasoning test) beginning in 2016. The test is very widely used in college admissions in the U.S. Many have argued that the results of the test are given too high a weight in admissions. Research indicates that high school grades are much better correlated with college performance than SAT scores. But the SAT is here to stay, and will remain of major importance in determining where high school graduates can attend college or university. The new set of tests will revert to a maximum score of 1600 based on the combination of the math and the English reading/writing sections. The essay portion of the exams will remain, but become optional, while also more rigorous.
Much of the motivation toward redefining the test is in an attempt to level the playing field and deliver opportunity for students coming from various economic and cultural backgrounds. See the College Board web site for their thoughts around this issue. There is an excellent article from the NY Times discussing the story of how the new version of the SAT came to be.
In addition to the issue of how much to weight the SAT and its competitor, the ACT, are given in admissions, there have long been concerns that the affluent have a double advantage in taking either of these tests. First, they are generally attending better schools than less privileged students, and have been exposed to more difficult concepts in math and more difficult vocabulary. And second, a whole SAT preparation industry has been around for decades – almost since the first SAT was introduced in 1926 – to help students improve their scores on the exams.
Many students attend training sessions for several weeks in the hopes of gaining an edge by increasing their scores by 20 or even 50 points per section. Some firms in the test preparation industry offer money back guarantees of improving scores by 50 points per section, although research indicates that the average gain from such preparation is a total of 30 points across the current 3 sections of the SAT. Still, even a modest improvement can be the difference between getting in to that higher ranked school or not. The courses easily run several hundreds of dollars, and the parents of students from lower economic strata generally cannot afford to send their children to these SAT preparation sessions.
In order to help level the playing field, the College Board and the Salman Khan Foundation have announced an initiative to make freely available SAT preparation materials and videos via the Web. Here’s a brief video including an interview with Salman Khan.
Curriki applauds this initiative from these two organizations. We would also like to let you know that there are a number of SAT-related resources on Curriki. Just go to our site and search for “SAT” and you will find resources such as:
1. Vocabulary resource – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_trish1/SATpreparationshelpfulforenglish
2. Vocabulary and SAT prep – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_NassauBOCESCurriculumAreaProjectsCAP/Gr10-12VocabularyandSATPrep