The College Board’s recent announcement that it will revamp its SAT has caused unnecessary panic among overachieving students and their parents. The test maker’s cause is noble and, as a tutor and education reformist, I support many of the changes. The overhaul has two ostensible goals: to make the test more relevant and to level the socioeconomic playing field (read: obviate expensive tutors). The former is achievable; don’t bet on the latter.
By definition, standardized tests are beatable and coachable. That which makes them (somewhat) reliable measurement tools necessarily makes them predictable: their consistency of content. Such uniformity facilitates score comparisons across different exam dates, but also enables me to dissect every pattern, trap and trick to give my students a dramatic edge over their peers.
Ironically, the new format will increase the demand for tutors. The hype surrounding the changes will redouble calls for guides to navigate uncharted territory. I’ve already received e-mails and phone calls from concerned parents two years before the changes debut.
To be sure, the overhaul will make the test “better,” i.e. more relevant. Eliminating obscure vocabulary words and replacing arcane triangle formulas with practical math concepts are unequivocal improvements.
Nevertheless, these changes will not rectify the performance gap. New question types will bring new tricks created by tutors like me who spend thousands of hours mastering the exam. Privileged students who can memorize the definition of flotsam are equally capable of learning empirical, perhaps even more so because their highly educated parents use it at home. Requiring students to justify their answers to test questions changes the rules, but not the results. Those with the greatest natural abilities, diligence and resources will still come out on top. Unfortunately, the playing field will never be level, and a highly publicized new test format only exacerbates the problem.
Brian Geiger is the CEO of Elite Ivy Tutors, which offers in-home and online lessons around the world. He can be contacted at Brian@EliteIvyTutors.com.