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Test-Optional Applications or an "Easier" SAT?

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

By Lana Sumner-Borema

Photo Credit to Pexels

The battle between going test-optional on a college application versus taking the now “easier” SAT is brewing, since during Spring 2020 in lockdown, many colleges such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) eased the minds of high school students when they made SAT scores optional for applications. For companies like the College Board, a nonprofit that creates and administers standardized tests and therefore makes money off the SAT, this test-optional decision posed a problem. As a result, the College Board has decided to make major changes to the SAT to make the exam more appealing to students.

According to a Forbes article, “Three Reasons Why You Should Pay Attention to the SAT Redesign” by Kristen Moon, the College Board’s changes include moving the exam online and shortening it to two hours. In an article by Chris Quintana in USA Today, College Board Vice President, Priscilla Rodriguez, explains that this shortening is a new approach to an “adaptive” testing style.

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“That means the test changes based on the students’ answers, with the goal of reducing the time students spend answering questions that are either too easy or too hard,” said Rodriguez.

According to Quintana, “the reading sections will be shorter and more closely related to material students would likely read in college.”

Another major change that could lead to a faster exam is allowing calculators for students through the entire math section.

The reasoning behind the shortened time frame and eased reading sections is to interest more high schoolers in taking the exam, and therefore paying the fee for it. The online format, however, would help save the College Board money.

While these changes may appear to benefit the test taker, some students feel that the SAT cannot truly be altered, as the test itself is not helpful in examining a student’s true ability.

“[The SAT] does a better job of showcasing academic discipline and memorization rather than someone’s actual intelligence and critical thinking,” said Yael Kiser, a freshman biology major and rowing athlete.

Kiser believes that the test showcases how well a student can prepare for a single exam. However, using this to evaluate a student is something she finds unfair.

“It could be a mistake for universities to overlook grades, extracurriculars, and application essays by placing too much confidence in the SAT,” said Kiser. “It’s hard to sum up a high schooler’s value in one test.”

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Senior computer science major Hermon Gebrezgiabher agrees that the culmination of a student’s high school career matters more than one exam. As a transfer student, Gebrezgiabher was required to send in SAT scores to the first university he attended, but when transferring to Barry, scores were optional.

“While I would say it is a good idea to somewhat judge a student’s academic ability based on SAT scores, more schools should start giving the scores less importance and ensure they are not solely basing their judgment on a single test,” said Gebrezgiabher.

Although the SAT is clearly evolving along with the times, there seems to be disagreement amongst students and businesses like the College Board about whether the SAT is truly necessary to assess academic ability.

Photo Credit to Pexels

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