SAT must shift away from the numbers game

Illustration by Maria Estrada

By Drake MacFarlane /// Backdoor Editor

We all remember the trials of the SAT (or the ACT if you were one of those students) during our junior and senior years of high school. Taking the test was an annoying, day long process, and involved a plethora of irrelevant or antiquated questions to answer. The results of this test were the primary means  for many colleges to judge you at face value. The number out of 2,400 became your rule-of-thumb “college-readiness” score–no matter how inane and inaccurate it may have been.

Well, things are a-changing. The College Board, which administers the test, appointed a new president by the name of David Coleman. Along with the rise of the new president came a wave of reforms, changing the test irrevocably. Starting in 2016,  it’s going back to a 1,600 point scale, widening its subject breadth, making the essay optional and removing point deductions for wrong answers. These reforms are meant to modernize the test and allow it to compete with the now more popular ACT.

All of this is well and good, but, honestly, why should we care? We’re in college already, right? We survived that test and managed to make it to Lewis & Clark relatively unharmed. But, here’s why we should care: the SAT is rebranding but not fundamentally changing. It doesn’t just affect us, it affects our younger siblings, our friends who are still stuck in the hell hole that is high school, and our future children.

Standardized testing has gotten a seriously bad reputation over the past decade for a reason: it’s limiting, obtuse and is an abstract measuring stick. It proclaims to test students on a “core” curriculum in order to gauge their college “readiness.” The problem is that there is an incentive for colleges to focus heavily on a standardized test score. It gives them a quick and easy barometer of a student and thus allows them to more easily reject students that don’t fit their bar. The problem is that it is such a narrow indicator of a person’s worth. But, because they are such easy measuring sticks, they have proliferated across all levels of the educational system. Their infestation of the system has made teaching to the test a higher priority than teaching students how to think.

We all know that our generation is going to inherit this messed up world and will be faced with trying to fix it. We can’t stand by and let the younger members of our generation face this poor education, nor let the next generation suffer it, if we are to create a better future. The standardized test is a relic of the past, when the world needed more workers than thinkers. But the problems of the future can’t be solved by simply memorizing vocabulary words and regurgitating knowledge in order to pass a test.

However, I must leave a note of caution. As bad as the SAT is, we still have no alternatives. As much as I and others want a more effective test, there simply isn’t one right now. It’s a structural issue that cannot be simply remedied by creating a new test. There must be a fundamental paradigm shift among those in power and those who put them in power, if we are to change the system. We have to invest in not just our own education, but the education of

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