Despite a three-week long SAT practice course, senior Maddy Mahla wasn’t satisfied with her scores on the test. Her main problem lay in the vocabulary questions of the reading comprehension section.
“I read on a regular basis, but some of the words on the test didn’t even look like real words,” said Mahla, whose least favorite section of the test was reading comprehension.
“Sometimes I would sit there during practice tests and use my Latin skills to try and derive the words. But they weren’t words I had ever encountered before!”
Current freshmen’s experiences, however, will be very different. On March 5, College Board president David Coleman said his company will redesign the test, which is required for the majority of college applications.
Among the changes are the elimination of obscure vocabulary words (such as “obsequious,” “propinquity” or “lachrymose”) and penalties for wrong answers; a 400- to 1600-point grading scale; an optional analysis essay; and material based more on school curriculum.
When Mahla first heard about these alterations, her jaw dropped and she slapped her thighs in frustration.
“Part of me is pissed, and part of me is really happy for the kids that get to take the new SAT,” she explained. “I think it’s a much better assessment of what (students) have the ability to do and will give colleges a better understanding of what that score means.”
In a recent Octagon poll, 35 percent of students said they liked the changes, eight percent said they preferred the current version and 57 percent said they didn’t care or weren’t sure.
Junior Anna Wiley, who will take the unaltered SAT in May, is most impressed by the changes to the essay. In addition to being optional (much like the optional writing section on the ACT), the prompt for the essay will be released before the test. Then, on the actual test day, students will be given a passage and “must explain how the author builds an argument,” according to the College Board’s website.
“(On the new SAT), you will actually know what you’re going to be writing about in advance,” Wiley said. “You’ll have a source to use instead of having to think up some (stupid) answer!”
Mahla said she thinks the new test will be more like the ACT in that it is more representative of in-class curricula.
“With the SAT, I felt like I was being tricked the whole time; if I got the right answer, I was kind of guessing,” she said. “With the ACT, when I got the answer, I knew it was the answer.”
Junior Melissa Vazquez agrees, adding that it is often difficult to decipher SAT questions. “I have an SAT tutor, and it consists more of studying strategy than material,” she said. “It’s not fair testing. I mean, nobody uses those big words (in the vocabulary section).”
Freshman Camille Locke is pleased that she will get to take the new test.
“Now, you’re actually able to study for (the test),” Locke said. “By changing it, they’re making it more along the courses that schools teach.”
Freshman Arvind Krishnan thinks the new test will test ability in college better than it does now.
“It (will be) more about analyzing your critical thinking skills instead of quick memorization,” he said.
For this reason, many upperclassmen say they wish they could take the revised SAT.
“I feel cheated,” Vazquez said.
Junior Lauren Larrabee says she feels like she’s being forced to take a much harder test than the freshmen will take. “This new SAT is going to make (getting into colleges) much easier,” she said.
On the other hand, junior Alex Bushberg is convinced that the new test won’t make college admissions simpler.
“Everybody is complaining about how the freshmen are getting it so much easier,” Bushberg said. “But the SAT is a comparative test.”
College counselor Jane Bauman says she thinks the test will help all test-takers as well.
“I think the changes will improve the test,” said Bauman, who will be learning more about the new tests in upcoming conferences and meetings. “But right now, it’s still too early to predict the impact of the changes.”
Because the test is so different, Locke is worried that her preparation for it will be subpar. “If I get a tutor, it will be a different preparation than they are used to,” said Locke, who plans on taking the test multiple times to get used to the new structure.
Meanwhile, Mahla, who will be attending Elon University in North Carolina next year, wishes she could have taken the changed SAT instead of the current version.
“I had good grades on my transcript, but my SAT score wasn’t so good,” Mahla said.
For current freshmen, this problem will hopefully be resolved by the revisions being made to the SAT, which is supposed to become more curriculum-based. Nonetheless, senior Connor Martin doesn’t envy the freshmen.
“I’d hate taking (the new test) in the first few years,” he said. “It will be flawed, and I would be a guinea pig.”