SAT is to college as monopoly money is to life

Ticket? Check. Alarm clock? Set. ID card? Packed.

No, this isn’t the day before a vacation; it’s the day before the SATs.

As college students, most of us have been through the dreaded experience of waking up early on a Saturday morning to drudge ourselves to school and take the test we’d probably been hearing about since the day we set foot in high school. We are conditioned to believe that this test is life-altering, as the school board encourages us to prepare for it years in advance. But what does this test even evaluate? Does it test our ability to read and comprehend an excerpted passage? Does it challenge our knowledge of mathematics up to high school level Algebra II? Or is it simply an examination into how much we’ve prepared for said test?

The fact that the SAT prep classes students are recommended to take are offered separate from their high school curriculum is a testament that the exam doesn’t test for mastery of relevant course material but, rather, a student’s ability to understand the exam. The more familiar a student is with the exam’s style, the better they’ll do on the test. SAT prep books don’t aim to improve a student’s skills in mathematics or reading; they improve to improve a student’s test taking skills. The SAT exists solely to assess how good a student is at taking the SAT.

Fully aware of these objections to their test, CollegeBoard, the company that creates and distributes the SAT, has come up with what it believes is a solution to these criticisms. Beginning in the spring of 2016, CollegeBoard will release a new version of its famous college entrance exam to combat the competition of rival test ACT.

This SAT will leave behind the current 2400 maximum score, reverting to the original 1600 point system. Rather than giving students the tedious task of memorizing obscure vocabulary words like “circuitous” and “grandiloquence,” there will be a greater focus on the contextual definition of terms and evidence-based reading. The mathematics section will emphasize the use of concepts relevant to science and social science careers such as ratios, percentages and proportional reasoning.

Perhaps the most relieving news about the new SAT is the elimination of the wrong-answer penalty. Test-takers will no longer have points deducted from their overall score for filling in an incorrect response; instead, only their correct answers will be counted toward their score.

While these changes seem to be a step in the right direction, CollegeBoard still appears unaware of the true problem with its test: it has very little to do with college preparation. I can’t think of a single instance in my university career when I thought, “That SAT prep course really came in handy,” or “I remember this problem was a question on the SATs. How did I solve it again?”

It might help you become a better test-taker in some instances, but it’s not going to help you retain any of that information when you become a college student. Actual college courses don’t even utilize the study tactics that SAT prep classes advocate for.

Rather than emphasizing the importance of the SAT and similar standardized tests, universities should instead focus on a student’s proficiency in material relevant to their course of study. GPA, Advanced Placement courses, volunteer service hours and instructor recommendations are already required for entrance into most universities and are a more accurate gauge of a student’s college-readiness.

The SAT has very little to do with any of this.

CollegeBoard doesn’t need to change the SAT; they need to axe it altogether.

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