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The Whiteboard Jungle: The SAT exam adapts to modern times

March 14, 2014|By Brian Crosby

The high school experience includes several rites of passage for students: getting a driver’s license, going out on a first date, and taking the SAT. Now the SAT journey has just gotten a little smoother.

Last week, the College Board, the organization behind the SAT as well as the Advanced Placement exams, announced major changes to the most feared test a teenager has to take: no more mandatory essay, no more penalties for wrong answers, no more difficult vocabulary. In other words, the kinder, gentler SAT coming in 2016 resembles more the ACT, the SAT’s closest testing competitor that has sold more tests in recent years.

The last major change to the high-stakes SAT exam came in 2005 when an essay component was added to the math and verbal sections, each component worth a possible 800 points for a grand total of 2,400. Now, a perfect score reverts back to the Holy Grail number of 1,600.

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Mention the acronym SAT to any grown-up and it sends shivers down one’s spine. After all, an SAT score is a major part of one’s college application used by admission officers in determining acceptance.

I had to go to Glendale Community College to take the three-hour SAT, so if I wasn’t nervous enough about a test I had only heard about and never seen, I had additional anxiety about navigating my way to the library on a campus I had never visited. Since I was the first in my family going to college, I had no older sibling or parent lessening my fears of what to expect.

Back then, few kids took SAT prep classes, and fewer took the SAT multiple times. It was a one-shot deal. You scored high, and your future was set. You scored low, and you might as well apply to GCC before exiting the campus. And the wait for the scores to arrive in the mail was interminable.

In my case, the less than stellar results did not negatively impact me as I was accepted into UCLA. However, that was a time when a 3.6 grade point average was also decent enough to get into a good college. Today, with weighted grades, a student would need a 4.6 GPA.

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