NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Changing for the Better

December 6, 2002

In late June, the trustees of the College Board voted unanimous approval for the most dramatic changes in the history of the SAT, the venerable admissions test that is a gatekeeper of so many American colleges.

The new SAT will be a better test in several respects, proponents say:

  • Most importantly, it does not lower standards -- indeed, it raises them with the addition of a writing test and problems from second-year algebra.
  • The new test will even last half an hour longer than the current three hours.
  • Competition under the new SAT will be fairer, at least in that everyone will know that the college entrance exam is an achievement test and that the best preparation truly is studying hard in a demanding high school and reading and writing as much as possible.
  • Since application essays nowadays are increasingly edited, if not ghost-written, by professionals, the writing sample will provide colleges with invaluable evidence of exactly what the candidate can do without assistance -- thus acting as a great equalizer.

All in all, the new SAT must be seen as an advance for educational quality and equal opportunity.

The immediate impetus for redesigning the SAT was the attack on the test launched by University of California president Richard Atkinson. He charges that the use of the exam distorts educational priorities and practices.

Source: John W. Harper, "The New, Improved SAT," The Weekly Standard, August 26/September 2, 2002.


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