Sybil Low by Sybil Low

The upcoming change in the SAT’s format, which will reduce the pressure of time, could change the way we look at educational tests. This new way might give a clearer picture of what students really know and can do, affecting how teachers teach and how students are graded.

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Key Takeaways

  • The new SAT structure reduces time pressure to more accurately assess students’ true knowledge and capabilities, focusing on deep thinking rather than speed.
  • Time constraints in exams can obscure the real abilities of students, especially impacting females, those with learning disabilities, and those under stereotype-related stress.
  • The revamped SAT may prompt a wider change in educational assessments and teaching methods, decreasing the reliance on timed tests and allowing students to better demonstrate their understanding and abilities.

Revolutionizing The SATs Assessment

The SAT tests, crucial for college admissions, are getting a significant change next year. This might alter how educators view and assess students. For years, the SATs, like many other tests, have been timed. Most students, when asked, agree they usually run out of time while taking these tests. The issue is that being fast has been seen as a sign of being smart or having mastered a subject. This makes students rush through tests.

An infographic that deals with problem of the sats will be different next year and provides information on this matter

However, being quick doesn’t necessarily equate to being knowledgeable or intelligent. What’s actually being measured is how well students can think when they’re stressed. This doesn’t showcase students’ real capabilities. Some research suggests that smarter people solve easy problems faster but take more time on harder ones, as they value accuracy over speed. Quickness is important, but so is being disciplined and reliable.

Tests, especially those that impact grades and future opportunities, rarely allow students to think deeply. They seem to prioritize quick and shallow thinking, which may not be a true reflection of a student’s abilities or potential. A personal anecdote supports this. One student performed exceptionally well on a test where she was given more time per question. The extended time allowed her to not feel rushed and to perform at her best.

In the context of gender differences, time pressure is significant. Boys generally outperform girls in mental rotation tasks in math tests. However, studies show that the gender gap decreases with more time, allowing female students to perform better. Time pressure also aggravates the negative impacts of stereotypes, such as the belief that girls are not good at math. This pressure can cause anxiety and disrupt cognitive processing, affecting the performance of female students. When given more time, they are more likely to rethink their approaches and double-check their answers, improving their performance.

Revolutionizing The SATs Assessment

This problem of time pressure is not only affecting girls but also any student who may feel worried or anxious, including boys in reading tests, immigrants on verbal tests, and Black students who may face stereotypical biases. It affects those with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, physical disabilities, and sensory impairments as well. Some schools offer extended time to accommodate students with disabilities, but this has led to an accommodation arms race, where people try to game the system to get more time.

One solution would be to allow everyone enough time to complete tests, which was tried by a high school in the Northeast. However, this led to another issue, where teachers made the exams longer. This highlights the need to reconsider the length of tests and the time allocated to them. Many educators are still holding onto the notion that if they had to suffer through tight timing, so should their students. They also say they are preparing their students for the pressures of standardized tests.

However, the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, has decided to redesign the SAT to minimize time pressure. David Coleman, the College Board’s chief executive officer, said that they realized that the test had too much to cover in too little time. 

“Historically, the SAT gave students “too much to cover and not enough time to do it.”

Developing a digital version allowed them to experiment with the test format, and the results were significant. The test is now shorter, and most students complete all questions in a section with time to spare. The College Board believes it is important to stop confusing being quick with being smart.

An image that shows and explains the question of sats will be different next year

This change could have a ripple effect on teaching methods and other assessments. If the leading standardized test no longer imposes time pressure, there may be less need for timed classroom tests. Tests might still not be popular among students, but they might not dread them as much. This could provide students with a better chance to show their abilities and to understand what is required to excel in the future.

In life and in school, success is not about speed but the complexity of thinking. Those who ponder and ask the right questions, rather than those who quickly give the right answers, often have the greatest potential. The upcoming changes in the SAT might be a step toward recognizing and nurturing this potential in students.


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