Revamping the SATs

Mar 6, 2014

Major changes are in store for the SATs. The College Board unveiled a revamp Wednesday. As part of our continuing Focus on Education reporting, WBFO's Eileen Buckley says the changes will lower the score and remove some difficult vocabulary words.

"It's about time is really what I want to say. Since they made those changes in 2005, the SAT has not become a better test, as a matter of fact it became a longer test," said Melissa Cook, owner and director of Test Preps, a Buffalo test preparation company.

Cook is thrilled with the announced changes for the SAT.  Cook said she believes it will become a more authentic test.

"Getting rid of the obscure SAT words students have to memorize and then never use again. That is definitely a step in the right direction. Revamping the essay -- which I've heard from college professors that when kids came to college they actually had to teach them how to rewrite the essay," said Cook.

Other changes include eliminating penalties for guessing the wrong answer.

"Even just eliminating the guessing penalty, where in the SAT you would lose a quarter point for every one that you got wrong," said Cook.

But not all educators agree with the change to the guessing penalty.

"I think the big problem is the statistics.  They removed guessing, which makes the test less much precise which means students are going to guess a lot more and some kids are going to be luckier than others," said Ming Ming Chiu, University at Buffalo professor who specializes in statistics.

"So I think removing the guessing penally is going to make the test less precise," noted Chiu.

Chiu said schools should not rely on the SAT alone to evaluate students. He said scores don't predict very much.  

Cook tells WBFO News she prefers students work toward the ACT for college acceptance.

"The ACT is a much more straight forward test," said Cook. "For the last two years, more students have taken the ACT nationwide, and I think that is part of almost the outcry of how bad the SAT got.  It's a broader look at what you did in high school and it doesn't have that guessing penalty. It was show us what you know."

But Cook said in her opinion, she doesn't see the SAT changes as a 'dumbing down' for students.

The newly designed SAT is expected to better match the skills students are learning in the classroom.  

Overall scores will be dropped from 2,100 back to the old score of 1,600. But all these changes won't begin until 2016 and this Saturday many college-bond high school juniors across Western New York will be taking the SAT with the current rules still in place.