The New York Times has an interesting article on major changes to SAT, the famous exam that high school students in the US have to take before admissions to college.
The fundamental changes are these:
- No negative marking: end the penalty for guessing wrong
- Removing obscure vocabulary words: so get rid of “SAT words” (“depreciatory,” “membranous”), and instead focus on words commonly used in college courses, such as “synthesis” and “empirical.”
- The essay (which has been mandatory since 2005) is now optional
Some more interesting developments. First, SAT prep is going online:
in the spring of 2016, the College Board, in partnership with Khan Academy, will offer free online practice problems and instructional videos showing how to solve them.
Why this change? One of the biggest points is standardized tests are under fire from critics. The arguments will be familiar to all educators in India, since that is a much bigger problem here:
The new SAT will not quell all criticism of standardized tests. Critics have long pointed out — and Mr. Coleman admits — 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.
and, they’re trying to reduce dependence of students on “coaching” classes:
“It is time for the College Board to say in a clearer voice that the culture and practice of costly test preparation that has arisen around admissions exams drives the perception of inequality and injustice in our country,” Mr. Coleman said Wednesday. “It may not be our fault, but it is our problem.”
But, that is easier said than done.
While test-preparation companies said the SAT was moving in the right direction, with more openness and more free online test preparation, the changes were unlikely to diminish the demand for their services. “People will always want an edge,” said Seppy Basili, a vice president of Kaplan Test Prep. “And test changes always spur demand.”
Standardized testing, coaching classes, cracking exams becoming a game, rather than a learning experience, are all serious problems facing us, and the solutions are not easy, but read the full article to get an idea of what is being tried in the US.