Changing the Test

SAT-Logo

By: Connor Lenahan

Earlier this afternoon, whilst eating Doritos pantsless and watching The Simpsons in bed, I got a news alert on my phone. The New York Times had given me a heads up that the College Board announced revisions to the SAT. Immediately, I was intrigued. What would these changes be? Assumedly, it would be something minor. After all, the exam was entirely overhauled from the standard 1600-point scale to the 2400-point one I had taken just a few years ago. Surely they weren’t going to do another overhaul.

And yet they did. Good news for all current high school freshmen, you’re going to be taking a significantly easier version of the exam. The essay section is now optional. Also, the emphasis on “SAT vocabulary” will be lightened. The rule that a quarter of a point will be deducted for every wrong answer will be lifted. Finally, the 1600-point scale is back.

Now, my immediate reaction was rage. Why is my youngest brother Cary going to get a different version of the test I was forced to take? That’s not fair to me. They can’t just mess with the system here. Why did it have to be now? Why couldn’t I take the easier exam?

Then I spent the afternoon mulling over the changes. I was thinking about my own performance on the exam as well. Admittedly, I’m happy I took the 2400 test. My strongest performance was in the writing section, unsurprisingly, and is undoubtedly a factor as to why I got into Boston University. So if I needed to suffer through this test to get to where I am today, fine. I make that trade ten times out of ten. The short-term pain of the SATs is worth the long-term joy that BU has given to me.

Selfishly, I was okay with how these things worked out in terms of my need to take the test. I would have had to do it either way, and I got my preferential exam. If it changes now, what do I care?

Then I was talking things out with my friend Elyse when she raised a good point we agreed on. Let’s remove from this discussion the merit of the SATs at all. As the world works in 2014, standardized tests are required to get into college and the SAT is the most popular choice. The conversation about whether or not this is a smart practice is for another day. For now, let’s deal with how the SAT operates in the world today.

Pushing for higher academic standards has never caused harm. I challenge you to find any example in history of more education leading to problems for society. It only brings good things into the world. Therefore, as logic would dictate, all parties associated with education should be making moves to improve academic performance amongst students. This is not a hard concept to follow, nor is it one that’s hard to support.

This is what seems so odd about the SAT changes today. By moving away from the essay, you are not just changing the exam, but also how students will study. I remember going through my SAT prep and becoming a better writer because of the essay section. Similarly, the vocabulary may have been a bit much, so a change is okay, but the writing section as a whole could be used to improve the communication skills of kids around the country. Why change that? What is the net gain of making the test easier? Sure, it’s going to make kids like my brother excited, but it’s not helping them. Multiple people, not just Elyse had brought this point up to me today. My friend and floormate Alex Mehan went on Twitter to poke holes in these changes. I agree entirely with his sentiment.

Admittedly, there is some good to these changes. The quarter-point rule was awful and illogical. No one is arguing to have that remain a part of the exam. However, the removal of the writing section seems wrong to me, and a great deal of people. Take it from me, a college freshman who is in his second and third writing intensive classes of his collegiate career, the essay section will only be beneficiary. Removing it is the wrong idea.

I will end with the following question. Making the exam easier will benefit students how? Additionally, it will benefit society how? If the College Board can sufficiently answer these questions, I will be behind their changes. However, as it stands tonight, I am against these changes.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at lenahan@bu.edu