Our View: SAT overhaul isn’t enough

DKS Editors

The College Board announced last week it would overhaul the SAT exam and start giving a new version of the test in 2016. Among other changes, the new test would be more curriculum-based, stop penalizing students for wrong answers and phase out old-fashioned vocabulary words. We support the updates, but we do not think the standardized-testing system is fixed yet.

Among many other problems, the SAT and ACT often produce inflated scores. Plenty of students are better test-takers than classroom learners, and test-prep courses can easily help people do better on the test but not retain the information. Perhaps now that the SAT claims it will have more useful and relevant material, it will be easier to study for and remember the information learned, but we are not convinced.

Additionally, the overhaul does not address the fact that there still is not one standardized test used nationwide — for example, some states’ students and colleges prefer the SAT, while others prefer the ACT. It can be confusing for students attending out-of-state schools to know which test is used more in the state where they will be attending school.

Worst of all, the stressful test often terrifies perfectly intelligent students into doing badly. As Jennifer Finney Boylan said in a column last week for The New York Times, “The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture … It freaks students out so completely that they cannot even think.”

A test taken one time can be so easily influenced by outside factors ranging from “What did this student eat for breakfast?” to “Was the bee buzzing around the room too distracting for the test-taker?” We do not think standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT should be relied upon as accurate measures of a student’s intelligence or potential, and we hope colleges eventually learn not to rely on them at all.