Up To the Test
New changes to the SAT promises to test students in more effective ways.
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The SAT exam is a prominent feature on every student’s application to any four-year university. However, the SAT underwent various changes last month in an attempt to reflect more efficient and relevant ways to measure the aptitude of student test-takers. In fact, students who took the PSAT last year in the fall of 2015 are already acquainted with the new system, whether they noticed it or not.
First, the SAT has eliminated the need for SAT vocabulary. In the place of this prominent component to the SAT, test makers formed questions that test students’ ability to find a word’s meaning through context clues.
For senior Luis Diaz, who took the SAT last year, this is an addition that he believes will create a new challenge for students taking the SAT this month. He, like the SAT test makers, realize that this will ensure that test-takers are showing that they have the ability to think critically instead of just memorizing obscure terms.
“Context clues will be difficult because people will need to think more and it will [take] a lot more time,” Diaz said. “[It] will take time to solve and really decide rather than just picking out vocab that you know.”
The second major revision to the SAT is the exclusion of the one-quarter point penalty to any incorrect answers. Test takers will no longer be docked points for getting a question wrong. This is meant to encourage students to give their best answers instead of leaving a question blank. On this revision, English teacher Michael Tolbert sees the positive in this change.
“People are encouraged to try without taking penalty,” Tolbert said. “That’s an enlightened way to go about things. Places like Iceland, one of the happiest places on Earth, consider failure as a unique aspect of their culture, the fact that people try and fail.”
The third major revision is that the essay writing portion of the SAT has been made optional. This will make the maximum score on the SAT 1600 instead of 2400.
On this revision, English teacher Kyle Howard said he’d like to see the writing portion remain mandatory.
“I think writing is important,” Howard said. “If I’m a university and I’m trying to recruit students for my school, I want to know what kind of writers they are, because that applies to any subject.”
In addition, for students like junior Angelica Martinez, the wriing portion revision is rather uninviting. Though the essay is now optional, most big-name colleges, such as Stanford and UC’s, will still require students take the SAT essay portion for admission.
“For me it doesn’t make a difference because I’m pretty sure that all the schools I want to go to require that, so I still have to take it,” Martinez said. “But for those who don’t need to take it, that’s good for them.”
Other colleges like Saint Mary’s and every university under the CSU system do not require or recommend the essay portion at all.
Overall, the new changes are adding up to make students more successful on the upcoming SAT’s. The lack of a point penalty and SAT vocab may already be affecting scores on the PSAT.
“I think I did pretty bad the first time,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if it was just because I didn’t study at all for that one, and I didn’t know what to expect, or if it was the way they changed the test that made it easier.”