Monday, September 23, 2013
72% of College Admissions Officers Agree the Test Should Be Changed
The SAT and ACT®, the high-stakes admissions exams taken by millions of aspiring college students each year, will both look very different in two years — and that’s welcome news to college admissions officers. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2013 survey* of college admissions officers from 422 top schools across the country, 72% agree that “the SAT should be changed” — which aligns with the College Board’s plan to overhaul the test in 2015. Though the SAT maker hasn’t provided many specifics about the planned changes, the announced intent is to better align the exam with what students learn. Test takers can also expect changes to the Writing section, where mastery of facts will be more prominent.
College admissions officers surveyed offered an array of opinions on what needs to be changed about the SAT, most notably:
Being more sensitive to perceived socioeconomic and cultural biases
Revamping, making optional or even eliminating the Writing section
Making the SAT’s content more reflective of high school curriculum
While admissions officers support revising the SAT, students are more ambivalent. In a separate Kaplan survey of SAT takers in March, only 39% of students said the exam should change, while 35% opted for no change; remaining survey respondents were unsure. The last time the SAT saw a major revamp was in 2005 when the Writing Section was added, bringing the scoring scale up to 2400 from 1600.
Admissions officers are more comfortable with the current ACT, with 76% saying the ACT should not change, at least from a content perspective; the vast majority (87%) agree with the test maker’s decision to change the ACT to a computer-based format in 2015.
“Aspiring college students and their parents will have much to process over the next two years as both the SAT and ACT fundamentally change,” said Seppy Basili, vice president of K-12 and college admissions programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “Key things to consider: exams are rarely easier after a major change, and few teens have ever taken a three-hour long computer-based test. We’ll be tracking the changes closely and update our own curriculum accordingly to ensure students are prepared.”
Also of note: Of the 88% of colleges and universities surveyed that require either an SAT or ACT score for admission, 99% say they have no plans to drop the requirement.
Other key survey results:
On Grade Inflation: 60% of college admissions officers think grade inflation is a problem; of this group, 60% say Advanced Placement courses contribute to the problem. (Grades in AP courses are weighted more heavily into a student’s GPA than are non-AP courses.)
On AP Courses: Only 10% of college admissions officers say an applicant’s AP test scores are “very important,” while nearly three times as many (27%) say it’s “not at all important” (37% say AP scores are “somewhat important” and 26% say they’re “not very important”)
On College Application Essays: A strong majority of college admissions officers (68%) say that they’d describe less than a third of applicants’ personal essays as “excellent or outstanding.”
On Plagiarism: 10% of college admissions officers say plagiarism is a “somewhat” to “very” serious problem among applicants; 10% of admissions officers also use anti-plagiarism software to catch relevant cases among applicants.
* For the 2013 survey, 422 admissions officers from the nation’s top national, liberal arts and regional colleges and universities – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report – were polled by telephone between July and August 2013. Among participating schools were four of the top ten ranked ones.