College Board revises SAT with new emphasis on ‘meaningful’ skills

by Rebekah Bresee

In an attempt to make standardized testing more meaningful, the SAT is being redesigned to focus on the knowledge and skills that current research shows are most essential for college and career readiness and success, according to College Board.

The newly redesigned SAT affects high school students as they prepare for the exam and begin looking at colleges. Additionally, colleges may need to revise their admissions criteria as they view the academic performance of prospective students.

“[College board] wanted students spending time reading great books and doing their high school studies,” said Jeannie Huskisson, Whitworth’s associate director of admissions and the admission tech.

The new SAT will have three sections: evidence-based reading and writing, math and the essay. However, the essay will be optional, according to College Board.

The content of the exam is going to be centered around the content being taught in high schools and that which will be applicable in college. For example, they are omitting obscure words that are not used in daily vocabulary from the exam, Huskisson said.

“They are transforming the vocabulary section into words you will use in college courses,” she said. “Words like analysis and synthesis.”

A goal of the redesigned test is to make it less stressful for students, said David Coleman, College Board President and CEO. Currently, the SAT is filled with mystery and “tricks” to raise scores and aren’t necessarily creating more college-ready students, he said.

Helping high school students achieve higher education is the mission of RISE, a tutoring and mentoring program that takes college volunteers and puts them in school programs in the Spokane area.

“We encourage and equip students so that they can do more than nothing after high school,” said senior  Zanovia Clark, the program manager of RISE.

Though the SAT changes will not affect the RISE program as a whole, informing schools, students and volunteers of these changes will be a step RISE will take, Clark said.

RISE mentors offer their assistance in whatever areas the school staff asks them to work on. If teachers want mentors to encourage students to take the SAT exam, they will work with students on their testing strengths and weaknesses, Clark said.

Another big change for College Board is a free SAT test preparation provided online.

“The thing that is going to affect high school students is the free test prep,” Huskisson said. “It’s nice to see there will be great change early on.”

In addition, the exam will revert to the old scoring system which ranges on a 400- to 1600-point scale. The evidence-based reading and writing section and the math section will each be scored on a 200- to 800-point scale. Scores for the essay will be reported separately if a student decides to take that part of the exam.

“We’re going to have to recalibrate what the scoring criteria are for scholarships,” said Greg Orwig, vice president of admissions and financial aid at Whitworth.

Currently, Whitworth admissions takes the top scores of each SAT section and combines them into an overall score. This is the number used for admissions and financial aid awards.

Scholarship awards are based off a combination of GPA and SAT or ACT scores. The optional essay makes awarding scholarships more complex since its inclusion or disclusion from a test changes a student’s score.

To meet the criteria set for Whitworth admissions, the essay will either have to be disregarded or required, Orwig said.

Applicants to Whitworth have the option of submitting SAT or ACT scores for consideration in the admissions process or requesting an interview in place of their test scores, as long as they attend an accredited high school and their GPA is at least 3.0.

“One reason we adopted that was because there were good students who didn’t test well but did well in high school that would be good students at Whitworth, and we didn’t want test scores to be an obstacle to them being admitted,” Orwig said.

Whitworth admissions officers will meet over the summer and make a decision on how to view the new SAT scores. However, this decision will not take effect for a few more years, Orwig said.

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