Required essays would help SAT, universities


Over the years, America’s education system has undergone changes to become fairer. The latest SAT tweaks reflect this effort but miss the mark.
David Coleman, the president of College Board, announced on March 5 that changes would be made to the SAT to make the test fairer for students.

Among these changes is a major alteration to the essay section, making it optional to test takers starting in the spring of 2016.

The original essay requirement was added to the test in 2005, jumping the SAT score from a 1,600-point scale to a 2,400-point scale. Now the test will go back down to a 1,600-point scale with both math and “evidence-based reading and writing” sections. The optional essay section will be scored separately.

With the new optional SAT essay section, test takers will be given a prompt that has the student analyze the argument of another writer. The changes to the essay itself are commendable because it will make the essay less about a student’s prior knowledge and experiences and more about his or her ability to think critically and analyze a situation. This is naturally more inclusive to all test takers, giving them an opportunity to show how to communicate and how to dissect other arguments.

However, the eradication of it from the required SAT format doesn’t help students or institutions of higher education because the changed essay will only be taken by those students who want to take it.

It will no longer be a clear indicator of how all students perform on the SAT essay section because the strongest writers and students are going to be the ones to voluntarily write an essay. This will naturally skew the essay grading section, making it that much more difficult for students to score well on the essay portion.

Most importantly, if the essay section is optional, then colleges and universities will no longer be able to see a student’s writing ability before they come to school unless they require a separate essay in their application.

Even then, the separate application essay could be manipulated or written by someone other than the applicant, making those essays only potential indicators of a student’s communicative abilities.

A timed essay test not only proves the writer’s integrity but also shows their ability to organize thoughts and arguments under pressure, both important skills for college-bound students.

Verbal and written forms of communication are arguably two of the most important skills to have when entering an institution of higher education. Without these necessary skills, students are less likely to be successful right off the bat at their college or university.

A required essay section gives a university admissions board an idea of whether or not it should admit the applicant. More importantly, a required essay helps admissions offices determine whether or not to place accepted students in classes or workshops that are more suitable to their needs during their first year in college.

It could help place students who score lower on the essay section in classes that are geared toward getting them on track to take regular English or communications courses.

Though many would argue that the changed essay would not truly