Colleges Consider Changes in SAT Testing

The College
Board’s decision to change the format of the SAT, announced March 5, has elicited discussions nationwide about how the new format could contribute to socioeconomic diversity at colleges and universities. Exactly how the new format could impact student populations at the Claremont Colleges remains unclear, however.

Forthcoming changes to the SAT, which will be implemented in two years, include fee waivers for
low-income students, who will now be allowed to apply to four colleges without
charge. According to an article in The New York Times published March 5, the College Board will also offer free
online practice videos produced in partnership with Khan Academy, an educational website that makes tutorials on various school subjects. The free tutorials will provide an alternative to costly test prep classes and tutoring. 

Other changes include updating the vocabulary section to include more college-specific words. The math section will be focused on specific topics that students are more likely to have covered in high school classes, and the use of
a calculator might not be allowed on some sections. The writing portion will be made optional, bringing the highest score down from 2400 to 1600.

“I think it’s a step in the right
direction,” Angel Perez, the vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Pitzer College, wrote in an email to TSL. “I particularly like that students will be studying
for words they will continue using throughout the rest of their adult lives,
instead of obscure words they only use once for an exam.”

Saloni Kalkat SC ’17 said that she thought that the changes to the test will benefit future college applicants.

“I think the changes to the SAT are good, because it bridges the inequality gap,” she said. “I think because it gives people equal access, scores are definitely going to be higher across all boards, which means, obviously, lower-income communities are going to be able to have more resources and therefore boost the diversity at colleges.”

Jade Taylor SC ’17 did not think the changed test will have much of an impact.

“The changes to make the SAT available to low-income students is a good step, but I’m still not sure just exactly how much of an actual impact it will have on future student bodies,” she said. “As far as we know, nothing could change.”

Admissions officers are also unsure about the direct effect the changes to the SAT will
have on 5C student populations.

“From what I’ve read, I applaud the
College Board for asking big questions about how students prepare for college
and are tested,” Scripps College Director of Admission Laura Stratton wrote in an email to TSL.
“At this time, the information that has been provided is very ‘big picture’ and
broad strokes and will not take effect for about two and a half years … To be
honest, we have not had time to sit down and fully explore how the changes will
affect our work. I imagine the process will take some time as the details are
rolled out.”

Perez said that he cannot predict the influence that the changes to the test will have on diversity at the Claremont Colleges. 

“Only research will define its
efficacy in the future,” he said. 

He added that since
Pitzer is already an SAT-optional college, the impact on the diversity of the college’s student body may be limited. 

“I don’t believe these changes will
have much of an impact on our incoming class,” Perez wrote. “We will continue
to be test-optional at Pitzer and look for students who embody the values of
the College.”

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