Much of the blame for the decline in SAT scores that occurred after 2005 has been attributed to the change in the test's format that went into effect in that year. The new writing section has added extra time and work, and made "teaching to the test" a bit harder. Ironically, as SAT scores went down, ACT scores rose -- and the SAT popped up on the radar of many standardized testing critics.
Testing the privileged?
The SAT has been considered by some to be a test that caters to the capable and by that, we mean those who can not only do well on the test, but can afford hundreds of dollars for SAT prep as well. Some of the more selective schools require SAT testing as a part of their admission criteria, reinforcing the idea that the SAT is a test for the privileged. This belief is bolstered by research showing that students from families with incomes over $100,000 score an average of 26 percent higher than students whose families make less than $10,000 a year. Some have even argued that the SAT is a test of financial status and not of academic potential.
This alleged disparity has led approximately 700 schools to stop requiring the SAT as part of their admission criteria, many of them small liberal arts colleges. These schools claim that overall high school performance, not a score from a four-hour test, is a better indicator of college success. While they may be right, SAT supporters argue that the test is a necessity for measuring standards of academic achievement from school to school -- that an "A" means the same thing no matter what high school you're attending.
Of the colleges and universities that still require standardized testing, many offer applicants the choice of taking either the SAT or the ACT. With an extra hour of work and declining scores in the spotlight, more students seem to be opting for the ACT these days than ever before.
Don't put away those pencils yet!
If you're thinking that perhaps you can forego the SAT altogether, you might want to hold off. 700 schools may seem like a lot (and it is), but there are still plenty of schools out there that require it. Make sure you know what's required of you before you toss out those test applications.
Also remember that SAT test prep can substantially increase your score on the test, and there are sources (like Peterson's) that offer free SAT help.