Kaplan Survey: College Admissions Officers and High School Students Differ in Support for 2016 SAT Changes
New York, N.Y. — There are big SAT changes in store for test takers who are members of the class of 2017 and beyond: harder math, the addition of historical reading passages, shifting of the essay from mandatory to optional, reverting back to a 1600 point scoring scale, no wrong answer penalty, no more fill-in-the-blank vocabulary, and a computer-based option. But what do college admissions officers, who will be evaluating these test scores, and teens, who will take the revamped admissions test, think of the upcoming changes? In separate surveys of admissions officers from over 400 of the nation’s top colleges and universities and of nearly 700 high school students, Kaplan finds admissions officers are generally more supportive of the SAT changes than college applicants -- with particularly wide disparity in support on the issues of computer-based testing and calculator elimination.
Digital Divide: Results from Kaplan’s 2014 college admissions officers’ survey show that 82% of respondents support allowing students the option of taking the SAT on a computer. In contrast, only 36% of students surveyed support a computer-based SAT -- with many citing concerns about not being able to do ‘scratch work’ on math problems, challenges in looking at a computer screen for four hours and potential technical difficulties. Currently all SAT exams are administered in paper and pencil.
- Divergent Views on Division...and Algebra: A strong majority (71%) of admissions officers support including math problems that must be solved without a calculator, while less than half (47%) of students support this change. As it stands now, a calculator is permitted for the current SAT; on the new SAT, test takers will not be allowed to use a calculator on 20 of the 57 math questions. What this change means is that test takers will need strong fundamental math skills, such as mental percentage calculation.
- Writing Section Goes Optional: Two-thirds (67%) of admissions officers say they support making the essay optional, instead of mandatory, while just a slight majority (51%) of students support this change. (Note: the essay is currently optional for ACT takers.) Additionally, 73% of admissions office say they don’t plan to require applicants to submit the essay. The essay was added to the exam in 2005, increasing the scoring scale from 1600 to 2400. With this change, the scoring scale returns to 1600.
- History Lovers: 87% of admissions officers support the addition of a reading passage from American and/or world history -- a change that 67% of students also support.
- No Disagreement on No Wrong Answer Penalty: There’s also consensus among admissions officers and students about eliminating the one quarter point penalty for wrong answers, with 70% of admissions officers and 73% of students supporting this change. The ACT does not have a wrong answer penalty.
- Good Riddance, Fill-in-the-Blank Vocabulary: Of all the announced changes to the SAT, students most strongly support this one, with 85% in favor of its elimination. Instead, the exam will focus on vocabulary-in-context, as well as revising and editing write-in passages. This change also has the support of 88% of admissions officers.
Overall, 79% of admissions officers surveyed support the SAT changes -- up from 72% last year.
“College admissions officers strongly support the upcoming changes to the SAT, but students are a bit wary about certain elements. Specifically, students are most concerned about shifting to a computer-based format and having to answer some math questions without a calculator,” said Christine Brown, executive director of K-12 and college prep programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “The good news for students is that the wrong answer point penalty and the unpopular fill-in-the-blank vocabulary questions will be eliminated. The best thing students can do, no matter which test they plan to take, is to practice in a realistic setting. Practice boosts confidence on test day, which is key to scoring well. For those who are particularly anxious about taking a new test, there’s always the option of taking the ACT, which is equally accepted by colleges. Keep in mind that the ACT is changing in 2015, but not dramatically.”
For more information, students, parents and educators can visit Kaplan’s SAT Test Change information center at www.kaptest.com/satchange.