New SAT: a Radical or Promising Departure?

Is the New SAT truly an improvement?

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Just as John Dewy has stated, education plays a critical role in our fast-developing world where almost everything is dependent on knowledge. As high schoolers, students are confronted with the so-called “educational arms race ” or the “life-determining test”—SAT. This standardized test, constructed by the College Board, is a norm-referenced exam that is globally recognized by multiple universities. It’s primary purpose is to determine one’s academic preparation for college, provide diverse opportunities and measure the ability and skills he or she needs. For about a decade, the SAT has remained constant with no changes; however, College Board announced just over a year ago that there will be a redesigned SAT called the ‘New SAT’. Their announcement not only raised concerns from students , but also debates on the effectiveness of the redesigned exam.


The current SAT and the New SAT have several divergent comparisons in its format, content, and purpose. Students who have taken the current SAT have encountered three sections: critical reading, writing, and maths whilst the New SAT will have two compulsory sections and one optional—essay writing. The critical reading section accentuates general reading comprehension skills and on specific SAT vocabulary terms; however, the latter test prioritises on one’s ability to cite evidence to their selected choices and on terms that are commonly used throughout highschool, college and even career. For the mathematics sector of the exam, the current one has questions from a broad range of concepts—such as quadratics and inductive reasoning. On the other hand, the Redesigned SAT gives students questions from a limited range that have been proven to supply for one’s preparation for college. Essay section, which is optional for the New SAT, focuses on student’s potential to construct an argumentative essay by utilising personal experiences, texts or historical events; but, the 2016 SAT puts emphasis on analysing how an author constructs their position in his or her writing.

“The new test will be more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education—rather than memorizing words and facts you’ll never use in the real world.”-College Board

Although it is said that the New SAT is an improvement from the current, many are still skeptical on whether or not it is a better way of assessing student’s academic performance. An anonymous KIS 9th grade student said in a recent interview, “I think it’s just a standard way of testing—evolving to match the new students standard.” This commonly held notion, however, is reputed in a recent New York Times opinion article. Richard Atkinson, writer of the article ‘The Big Problem with the New SAT’, rebukes the effectiveness of SAT; because, the exam ranks students rather than assess them to a rigid standard. Since the exam produces a bell-curve, parents and students tend to register for SAT-prep academies—degrading the College Board purpose of determining one’s skills and creating unequal opportunity for those who do not have the financial support to send their child to one. He, in addition, suggests that standardized or college entrance exams should be changed from  ‘norm-referenced’ to ‘criterion-referenced’—measuring one’s ability to fixed standards— so that it reduces the inequality among students and shows the true ability of one.
(Higher Education)

As juniors, sophomores, and freshmen prepare for the ‘radical or promising departure’ from the current SAT, students should always keep in mind that the best method of achieving well and acquiring true education  is to take rigorous courses throughout high school and work to best of one’s potential—and, remember, that the exam may not be a promising way of measuring your ability.


– Sarah Oh (’19)

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