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As has been widely publicized of late, the College Board has announced some exciting updates to their standardized tests. The key parts of these changes include:
- Testing will be completed online
- Tests will last 2 hours, not 3
- Calculator allowed on all math questions
Factors to remain the same:
- A proctored setting is required
- Multiple choice questions remain in place
- Scoring is on a 1600 scale
- The removal of the Subject Tests and optional essay will remain in effect
Domestic sites will be seeing these significant changes in 2024, and international testing sites in 2023. This means that today’s 8th and 9th grade students in the USA will be the first ones to take the new testing format.
The changes likely occurred because of College Board concerns about the future marketability of their test, the SAT. Over 1800 colleges no longer require standardized testing for admission, about 80%, with some states now mandating that all public colleges remove the requirement. After 700,000 fewer students took the SAT in 2021, numbers have risen this year, but that huge drop, coupled with the increase in the number of schools removing the requirement, has caused ripples of concern within the College Board.
The test remains controversial with opponents highlighting the greater ease for wealthy students to prepare and perform well, while those from more disadvantaged schools and backgrounds face several barriers to success. The College Board has reacted to this with ‘adaptive testing’. Each section will be prefaced by a set of questions designed to assess performance and hence, adjust the rigor of the subsequent questions. The new test will have two sections – one on mathematics and one on reading and writing, each counting for 800 points. Students will be permitted to use a calculator throughout the math section. The reading section will have shorter sections with texts covering a wider range of topics.
Students tried out the new test in November 2021 and overwhelmingly indicated a preference for the online format, indicating that they were less stressed and found it easier to complete. Test takers enjoyed being able to bring and use their own laptops; loaners, when needed, were available onsite. There was also praise for the simple login, and visible countdown clock and digital calculator. Results from this new test will be delivered electronically in days, not weeks. Testers will not be penalized for the loss of either power or connectivity and work already completed and time already used will be saved. Schools enjoyed the removal of the shipping and receiving requirements, and there was praise for the new option to offer more flexible testing dates, times and locations, most importantly during the school day with most students present.
This new system will also provide the security lacking in the current paper and pencil format, because each test will be unique – thus, no answer sharing will be possible. Historically, several international testing centers had to close because of widespread cheating and many unscrupulous individuals thrived over the years by selling test papers.
Over 80% of high school students want to submit test scores along with their applications. Students, parents and high school counselors know that strong test scores can open doors to scholarships and additional financial aid, a critical factor for many families, and this new format will allow students to quickly access their scores and decide whether to submit them. With so many public and private institutions now either eliminating testing permanently (the University of California system), or even temporarily (Harvard and Stanford), the College Board is hoping that bringing their test into the 21st century will secure its future viability.