How has the SAT Test changed over time? How long has the SAT Test been around?
In 1927, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) developed the SAT Test because colleges wanted an objective way to compare students. When it came to selecting candidates for their incoming freshmen class, colleges had no quantitative way to compare the application of an A-student from the Upper East Side of Manhattan with that of a A-student from Des Moines, Iowa. The SAT Test emerged as the solution to this dilemma.
The SAT Test has undergone a number of significant revisiQons over the last 80 years, most recently in March of 2005. The old SAT Test assessed student reasoning based on knowledge and skills developed by the student in school coursework. The new SAT test improved the content of the exam by supplementing it with current curriculum and institutional practices in use not only in high school, but in college as well. The new SAT Test includes a third measure of skills – writing – that helps colleges make better admissions and placement decisions. In that way, the new SAT Test reinforces the importance of writing throughout a student’s education.
The new SAT Test asks students to write a short essay that requires them to take a position on an issue and use examples to support that position. This test also includes questions similar to the multiple-choice questions on the retired SAT II Subject Test for Writing to see how well students use and understand standard written English. These questions are designed to measure the student’s ability to recognize errors and improve sentences and paragraphs. This new section, and the new SAT Test in general, helps college admissions officers see if a student is ready to write at the college level.
How important is the SAT test? Does it count for everything as far as college admissions goes?
At CATES, students often ask us how the importance of SAT Test scores ranks in comparison to the rest of a student’s overall college application. 1.6 million students took the SAT Test last year, so obviously the test serves as a critical component of the application, but it does not count for everything. Generally speaking, the levels of importance of the different aspects of your application break down as follows:
1. Grades – Did you challenge yourself in high school and earn great grades doing so?
2. SAT Test Scores, SAT Subject Test Scores, and ACT Test Scores.
3. Extracurricular Activities – Sports, Clubs, Community service, etc.
4. College Application Essays – Who you are “beyond the numbers?”
5. Recommendations – What do your teachers think of you?
6. Interview – How well do you present yourself in person?
Of course, there are exceptions to these general guidelines. Some schools may value the college application essay more than SAT test scores. When considering schools, ask your college counselor about how these institutions you aspire to rank these items.
As a rule of thumb, the top schools are going to be looking for strong SAT test scores. The test represents an objective measure, separate from all the idiosyncrasies of individual schools, which an admissions officer can use to gauge achievement. Additionally, as college admissions becomes increasingly competitive, you can expect to see median SAT test scores at all schools on the rise.
The SAT Test cannot replace or overshadow the great work you have done in the classroom for years, rest assured. Actually, in many ways the SAT Test presents a chance at redemption for the student who believes his or her academic record does not reflect the intellectual ability demonstrated in class. For cases like this, the SAT Test presents a great opportunity to show the admissions officers exactly what you are capable of doing.