SAT changes offers ease for college readiness


David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

The College Board introduced changes to the SAT on March 5 that will affect incoming freshmen in 2016.

The SAT is adjusting its standards in order to compete with the growing popularity of the ACT. Because most universities, including UH, accept either the SAT or ACT, many current students opted to take the ACT because of its ease.

According to the New York Times, a few of the SAT changes include removing obscure vocabulary words, making the essay optional and returning to the 1,600-point scale for grading.

Additionally, The College Board will remove the wrong answer penalty in alignment with the ACT. Previously, there was a 1/4-point deduction for incorrect answers on the SAT.

These revisions will not be beneficial in preparing incoming freshmen for college, and it seems The College Board is trying to oversimplify the exam in an effort to appease students and improve overall scores.

Biology junior Jasmine Martinez said she believes students will be less prepared for college if the SAT is simplified.

“If they make (the SAT) easier… Students won’t be encouraged to study,” Martinez said.

The College Board President David Coleman said the test should provide “worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles” for students, according to the Washington Post.

Coleman appears to have been out of school for too long, because I think the SAT’s current level of difficulty accurately reflects the vigorous education environment in college, especially at UH. A college entrance exam should mirror some of the information taught in high schools as well as prepare for what is to come.

If the high school education system is doing its job well, a student will be able to perform well on the SAT and therefore excel when he or she begins college.

Incoming freshmen at UH in 2016 will be unprepared for the high stress and standards of a college class by taking a simplified exam.

According to the New York Times, Coleman said that tests are “mysterious and ‘filled with unproductive anxiety.’”

Test anxiety in the college atmosphere will not become obsolete because of test changes. At UH, classes generally have only two to three tests per semester and a final. They cover vast amounts of complicated information, and it will not be helpful for students to take an easy test to be accepted into college — it only sets them up for failure.

It is important for prospective UH students to learn how to study and perform well in high-stress environments.

As well as studying, writing papers is a crucial portion of many courses at UH. By making the essay optional, it does students a disservice when they reach a class that requires several papers.

“You have to know how to write papers in college… Everyone needs to write an essay because everyone needs to be on the same playing field.”
-Psychology freshman Noah Douglas, 
regarding The College Board’s decision to drop the essay portion from the SAT.

Psychology freshman Noah Douglas said he believes the essay is an important part of the exam and making it optional will make grading inconsistent.

“You have to know how to write papers in college,” Douglas said. “Everyone needs to write an essay because everyone needs to be on the same playing field.”

With the changes to the SAT, 800 points will come from the math section and 800 points will come from the reading section. The current exam has three sections, each worth 800 points. It is unclear how the writing score could be factored in to the new exam; therefore, colleges will be unable to view applicants’ scores in comparison to each other.

According to the admissions page on the UH website, UH currently accepts a score of 1,500 out of 2,400 on the SAT. Adjusting the grading scale, and especially removing the writing portion, will make it more difficult to determine the validity of a student’s score.

If the SAT competes with the ACT, I think that it will begin a vicious cycle of each exam lowering its standards every few years, eventually making them elementary.

Director of SAT Programs for Veritas Prep Shaan Patel shares this fear that the SAT and ACT will continue to fight for students by making the exams too easy, according to the U.S. News and World Report.

“I think it loses a lot of the predictive value for colleges,” Patel said.

The admissions office will have a more difficult time determining student aptitude, which could be harmful for incoming UH freshmen.

The College Board’s attempt to oversimplify and copy the ACT is also evident in the removal of the wrong-answer penalty. While this may encourage students to answer more questions, it will become a way for them to increase their scores by guessing, which is not reflective of intelligence.

Students should be encouraged to study hard and prepare well for an exam. Instead of creating an easier test, it would be more beneficial to provide cost-free online test preparation materials.

Liberal studies sophomore Sydney Westbrook said practice questions were beneficial when studying for the SAT.

“If you do a practice test, you are well-prepared and you know what to expect from the exam,” Westbrook said.

Standardized testing can be a barrier for many students, but studying allows greater chances for success. Providing more readily available test practice rather than simplifying the exam will be more useful in the long run.

Prospective college students can do well on the SAT by learning how to use practice materials and study hard, which is a skill that carries into college.

UH is lucky to have incredible faculty and staff who are knowledgeable as well as challenging. I fear that the revisions to the SAT will not prepare incoming students for the rigorous classroom environment in college.

The SAT seems not to be realigning with school curriculums and is instead creating an exam that takes the easy way out. As a student who has taken both the SAT and ACT, the challenge of college entrance exams was a rite of passage and great preparation for college classes.

While not everyone is going to use obscure vocabulary words like “sagacious” or “apocryphal” in everyday conversation, it does not mean that learning to study those words is not beneficial to overall success.

Incoming UH freshmen should be granted the opportunity to effectively prepare for the college education environment.

Opinion columnist Amber Hewitt is a print journalism sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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