“New” SAT – Same as Old Test, Only Longer and More Expensive

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, July 2008

Contrary to the test-maker’s promises, the “new” three-part SAT, introduced in March 2005, has not proven to be a significantly more accurate or less biased predictor of first-year undergraduate grades than its predecessor. The source of this damaging information: two reports by the exam’s own sponsor, the College Board.

In its promotion materials for the revised SAT, the College Board said, “Three scores – in critical reading, math and writing – can be expected to have greater predictive power of a student’s probably success at a given institution than two scores in verbal reasoning and math.”

Validity of the SAT for Predicting First-Year College Grade Point Averages is the first comprehensive study to evaluate that claim. After examining the performance of the first cohort of students taking the “new” exam, the College Board concluded, “The results show that the changes made to the SAT did not substantially change how predictive the test is of first-year college performance.”

In addition, Validity of the SAT admitted that high school grades are a better predictor of college grades than is the SAT, “new” or old, despite grade inflation and huge disparities among grading systems.

A second College Board report released in June 2008 explored gender and racial disparities on the revised exam. Differential Validity and Prediction of the SAT, explained, “The findings demonstrate that there are similar patterns of differential validity and prediction by gender, race/ethnicity, and best language subgroups on the revised SAT compared with previous research on older versions of the test.” Once again, the revised exam is no better than the one it replaced. The ‘new’ SAT continues to under-predict the performance of young women and students whose best language is not English.

The College Board's inability to marshal any evidence that the "new" SAT is a better or fairer predictor than the "old" version is an admission that the revision was not a serious attempt to improve the test. FairTest had labeled the test revision an attempt to “paint lipstick on a pig” (http://www.fairtest.org/new-sat-better-test-or-just-marketing-ploy). The “new” SAT was rushed to market after University of California President Richard Atkinson threatened to drop the test as an admission requirement. Largely a repackaging of old exams, the changes increased the length of the test by three quarters of an hour and its cost by 41%.

Major news outlets across the country jumped on the reports with headlines such as “Study Finds Little Benefit in New SAT” (New York Times), “Study Suggests New SAT is Nothing to Write Home About” (USA Today), and “The New SAT: Longer But No Better?” (Inside Higher Education)

Combined with the revision’s failure to address long-standing concerns about the test’s biases, susceptibility to coaching, and distortion of high school curricula, these stories will likely further accelerate the movement toward test-optional admissions. Since the “new” SAT was announced, 42 more schools, including some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities, have eliminated testing requirements for all or many applicants.