Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong, cutting obscure vocabulary words and making the essay optional.
The changes are extensive: The SAT’s rarefied vocabulary challenges will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, like “empirical” and “synthesis.” The math questions, now scattered across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.
The new SAT will not quell all criticism of standardized tests. Critics have long pointed out that high school grades are a better predictor of college success than standardized test scores. More colleges have in recent years become “test optional,” allowing students to forgo the exams and submit their grades, transcripts and perhaps a graded paper.