By now, anyone who has an interest in college admissions knows that there is a “new” SAT out there waiting to debut in the spring of 2016. Well, this is the spring of 2014, so for the next couple years, we’ll be seeing a concentrated public relations effort by the College Board to convince all concerned (mainly aspiring college applicants) that the new test will be a revolution in college admissions sanity. (By the way, I think the terms “college admissions” and “sanity” are mutually exclusive, if not oxymoronic, with emphasis on “moronic.”)
As you may have seen from other of my recent articles, the insanity of college admissions reached new heights (or depths, depending on your point of view) this year. Stanford University led the pack with a mindbogglingly low 5.1% acceptance rate. A healthy group of other colleges boasted similarly frightening low numbers. One wonders what the ultimate resolution of this spiral (or nosedive) will be. Maybe some day a few colleges will attain the pinnacle of selectivity and admit no one. It will be hard to top a 0% acceptance rate, although some will try. I can see the headlines now: Harvard sets new record with -3.2% acceptance rate; 213 undergrads told to leave.
There’s something to be said for being #1. I doubt that it will ever get to that point, but The College Board (they like that “The” to be capitalized in their name) has purposed to ease all this insanity by making their vaunted SAT more practical, eschewing arcane vocabulary words and putting a happier face on those little answer sheet circles. The story behind the story, however, emits a fragrance of competitiveness. The College Board has seen their main competitor in the field of standardized testing — the ACT — make huge strides over the past decade, not only in market share but also from a reputation and admissions benchmark standpoint.
For The College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS), it must be hard to look in their rear view mirrors and see #2 emerging from that former cloud of dust and closing the gap. Thus, in this writer’s jaded opinion, the story of the “new” SAT is really about that “old” story of market dominance, a phrase that really means “more money now!”
So, what is so new about the 2016 SAT? Of course the national media have been eager to report on this story. They seem to know that mentioning or printing the letters “S-A-T” draws immediate attention. The heavyweight PR campaign began a day or so ago with CB’s (I’m dropping “The” formality) release of some sample new questions from the redesigned test. Here are a few, along with some comments from media sources. More »