The College Board, the private nonprofit that administers the SAT, just announced radical changes coming in 2016. The college entrance exam will drop back to a 1,600-point score, make the essay optional, and replace arcane vocabulary words with more common ones, among other major reforms.
The test should offer "worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles," College Board President David Coleman says, admitting that the SAT has been confusing for students and "filled with unproductive anxiety." This year's ninth graders will be the first to take the new test.
The College Board is also restricting the use of calculators to certain parts of the math section and eliminating the negative points awarded as a "guessing penalty" for wrong answers. This is arguably a bigger overhaul than occurred in 2005, when the test changed to a 2,400-point system.
The test should offer "worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles."
The changes appear to be an attempt to reverse the test's declining relevance as college admissions opt for the competing ACT or drop the test score requirement entirely. The SAT has repeatedly come under fire for being arbitrary and even racist. As Elizabeth Kolbert pointed out in a recent New Yorker piece, even The College Board has given up on the idea that it measures either aptitude or performance.
After taking the test as an adult, the exasperated Kolbert wrote, "Whatever is at the center of the SAT—call it aptitude or assessment or assiduousness or ambition—the exam at this point represents an accident." Perhaps the new and supposedly improved SAT can do better.