YOUNG VOICES: ACT, SAT, what's in it for me?

2014-04-21T00:00:00Z YOUNG VOICES: ACT, SAT, what's in it for me?By Brianna Howerton nwitimes.com
April 21, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Standardized testing is a grueling part of the college admissions process that every college-bound student has to endure. The SAT and ACT are meant to aid colleges in their selection of students through the evaluation of test scores from all high school students. College Board is making changes to its test which will take effect spring 2016. Although these changes may be positive in some ways, it appears the makers of the test are simply trying to compete with the ACT.

The proposed changes to the SAT are meant to be more relevant to the education high school students are actually receiving. The writing section will be optional and will contain an analytical essay, and there will be less emphasis on vocabulary in the reading sections. The vocabulary tested will be “less obscure” than in recent years, according to College Board. The range of math topics tested will be narrowed. The scoring will change from 2400 to 1600, and points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers.

The last time the SAT saw great revisions was in 2005, when the scoring scale was changed from 1600 to 2400 and the essay section was added.

College Board also will be partnering with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation beginning in spring 2015 to create a fair opportunity for students of all economic circumstances. However, students of higher income families will probably still test higher as they do now because of private tutoring, better high school educations and other economic advantages College Board cannot control.

Although it seems College Board has good intentions making the SAT more relevant to students and what they are actually learning in high school, it is hard to ignore that in 2012, 1,666,017 students took the ACT, while 1,664,479 took the SAT, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing – the first time the number of ACT takers has surpassed that of the SAT.

The more students who take the exam, the more money College Board will make. The 2016 changes may encourage more students to take the SAT instead of the ACT. Rather than testing college preparation, test makers are monopolizing the standardized testing system.

The SAT is arguably compromising its standards for students by making its essay optional and giving more specific guidelines for which math topics to study. The makers of the SAT may simply be trying to stay ahead of the ACT in terms of number of students taking the exam.

Competition between the ACT and SAT may be the driving force for the changes to the SAT. Whatever the true intention is, hopefully all students will benefit in some way because the test will be more relevant to real high school education.

Brianna Howerton, of Hobart, is a junior at Andrean High School. The opinions are the writer's.

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