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The SAT has a problem

College Board President David Coleman attends an announcement event, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Austin, Texas where College Board officials announced updates for the SAT college entrance exam, the first since 2005, needed to make the exam a College Board a better representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Question: Choose the word which best describes the SAT.
A.) Unfair
B.) Irrelevant
C.) Dated
D.) Ossified
E.) All above the above

The answer? All of the above.

Do you know your SAT score? I do. Even though it’s been about 45 years since I took it. That’s how important the SAT has been.

But it has a problem.

“There was no direct correlation between academic success on our campus and the SAT,” says Angel Perez, head of admissions at Pitzer College.

He’s not alone. Colleges have complained for years the SAT doesn’t test for the skills that identify top students. Research shows that high school grades are better predictors.

So David Coleman, President of the College Board, which runs the SAT, says the test is going to be rewritten. “We cannot stand aside and say, ‘We made a good test.’ What happens before and after is not our fault.”

Coleman sounds like a man determined to do what’s right. But what may have precipitated his decision is good old fashioned competition. The SAT has been losing market share to its competitor, American College Testing, whose ACT is now taken by 145,000 more students.

So among the changes, math questions will be limited to the most important concepts and in some segments, no calculators allowed. As for the verbal test, it will concentrate not so much on the incorrect answer but choosing a quote from the reading that best supports your conclusion. Evidence based reading and writing, it’s called.

I remember going to an SAT prep class when my kids were in high school and being shocked to find it had nothing to do with learning the subject matter. It was about how to guess strategically. That was it!

The re-write, we’re told, will get back to testing what you know, rather than what you can fake.

“The road to success is not last-minute tricks, or cramming, but the learning students do over years, each day,” says Coleman.

And may I say it’s about time.

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