You might think that as a college student constantly apprehensive about his financial future, I would have little to no interest in the recent news that the format and content of the SAT will soon be changed. Yes, that’s right, the SAT, that ominous name that filled many of us with fear of words like harangue and cacophony, will finally abandon its love of the abstract, never used parts of our lexicon. I was pleasantly surprised by this knowledge and the information that the test will also abandon the essay and 2400-point-scale and will revert to the 1600-point-scale, as it was once measured by. In addition, the exam will no longer penalize its takers for guessing incorrectly.
Thinking of all of the students who will be saved from the monster that is the current SAT brought me great joy. Thank god, I thought. After 2016, no one will have to prepare for a test that is completely impractical. No longer will any great student be denied entrance into a university based on a test that, without the importance given to it by colleges, college counselors and, consequently, students, would be completely irrelevant to our education. I will admit this thought was naïve; fixing the SAT will not fix the problem of the SAT. It is still one exam, the score of which can devastate a student’s academic career.
This, however, had not been my issue. If you were to go back in time to my high school whilst I was enrolled, you would have most likely thought of me as a habitual slacker, someone whose only goal was to hang out with friends. I simply was not interested in certain courses, and my lack of interest in the courses offered in my high school led to an apathetic nature about the coursework. These habits, my affinity for procrastination and my discovery that there are, in fact, limits to the “my dog ate my homework” excuse culminated in a GPA slightly below what could have been. So when I applied to Stony Brook and other schools, I relied on my above-average SAT scores to provide the proof of my intellect.
As someone who is interested in the stock market and the true value of anything that can conceivably be given a non-intrinsic price tag, I started to question how the transition would affect those of us already enrolled in universities across America. If a college degree can be evaluated in terms of dollars and cents, then certainly the valuation would be higher or lower based on the overall quality of student graduating from said institution of higher learning. For example, if 99 percent of Stony Brook graduates prove themselves as intelligible, dedicated workers, a prospective employer is bound to take said degree as a sign of such desirable qualities. On the other hand, if 75 percent of XYZ University graduates an employer has employed are unprepared and incompetent, the desirability of said degree, and thus its value, is lessened.
For this reason, the change from the current SAT to the revised version worries me as a college student. Sure, there are simple statistical ways of evaluating the percentile values of each SAT score and only admitting the students who truly deserve the opportunity to matriculate at a university of the highest standards, but will the new format hurt students whose academia requires them to prepare vigorously for such an exam? Will tests similar to the new format be made available to them or will they be left out in the dark until the day of the exam? And if the new SAT does not penalize for guessing, doesn’t that mean that some students may obtain scores above their true ability?
If my musings are correct, there is a possibility that some sub-par students may enter universities above their level due to augmented SAT scores. This could have some consequences that may affect the public standing of the university. For one thing, students that may have done perfectly well at another university may struggle. If their struggles reach the point where they feel the need to drop out of said university, withdrawal rates could increase. This could damage public perception of the university and hurt its future. Another possibility is that a student who enrolled at an academic institution above their ability could affect their peers in a negative way. They could become overwhelmed by the academic demands placed on them and require assistance from their peers to the point that they become a distraction. This could even go to the point that they put their peers in a position that violates a university’s policy on academic honesty. Distracted students do not perform as well, and students who violate certain restrictions on “teamwork” placed on them by the university do not tend to do very well either.
All in all, however, I believe that the new SAT is a change for the better. Any kind of fine tuning and progression that can help the American academic system become more successful is a win in my book. The use of more practical vocabulary will force students to learn language that could be more applicable to everyday situations. The elimination of the essay, the return to the 1600 point scale and the elimination of point detraction for guessing answers will improve the test by leaps and bounds in the long run. The fact that an institution like College Board is willing to improve their exam in order to better address the needs of an ever-changing academic playing field is a bright spot in a world where compromise and change is far from encouraged. If only we could see the same enthusiasm in trying to improve college tuition rates.