With a Big Overhaul Planned for the SAT®, Kaplan Test Prep Survey Finds that Parents are More Likely than High School Students to Think the College Admissions Test Needs a Shake-Up

It’s no surprise that teens and their parents have differing views, but on the topic of shaking up the SAT, high school students are decidedly -- and surprisingly -- more “old school” than their parents. In a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey, teens showed an overwhelming resistance to moving the test from paper and pencil, with 81% of teen respondents* against the SAT going digital, while 65% of their parents supported a change to a computer-based format.** (NOTE: The SAT administrator has so far only signaled unspecified changes to the test’s content, not its format.)

Following an announcement from the SAT administrator that major as-yet unspecified changes are in store for the test, Kaplan Test Prep surveyed high school students and parents about whether they think the SAT needs to be changed. Nearly half of parents responded they believe it does (45%), compared to 39% of surveyed high school SAT takers. In contrast, just 19% of surveyed parents think the exam should stay as is, versus a near double percentage (35%) of surveyed SAT takers who opted for no change. Remaining survey respondents were ‘unsure’.

The most notable difference between student and parent views were in the responses to the question “Do you think the SAT should change from its current paper-and-pencil format to a computer-based test?” A strong majority of parents (65%) would favor the change in format, while only 10% of students responded yes. Today’s generation of teens, raised on computers and digital devices, expressed an overwhelming preference for sticking to a paper and pencil test (81%), raising concerns about being able to do ‘scratch work’ on math problems, lack of typing proficiency for essay writing, the challenges of looking at a computer screen for four hours, and potential technical difficulties. A sampling of comments:

  • “With a paper test, it's much easier to write down your work and thought process on scrap paper, which would be considerably more difficult to do on a computer.”
  • “It is easier to think with a paper in front of you. Computers, even if you can't do anything else on them, are distracting and make students want to do other things. I like to write on papers and be able to see the whole reading passage, not scroll down a page.”
  • “Because it's just so much easier to take that way... And its faster. You can flip back and forth pages much easier, and everyone knows that it's much easier to take a test when you can write on it. An online SAT would be a nightmare.”
  • “Because staring at a computer screen for a four hour test is not healthy for one.”

In contrast, parents believe their kids prefer computer, citing “quicker results” and noting “kids feel more confident at a computer screen these days,” “most kids are used to computer,” “kids are of the computer age and it is more relevant to them.” One parent in favor of going to a computer-based format said, “I think that's the direction this world has taken and it would be easier to make changes this way.” That theme of modernization was common among parents in favor of the switch. Parents who opposed any change expressed concern that without a paper trail, answers and tests could get lost.

Aside from strong support for going to a computer-based format, parents in favor of changing the SAT vary widely in opinion on what exactly should change. The strongest recurring theme was that the test content needs to be relevant with the times: “Topics more relevant to the new economy,” “Not sure, but it should keep up with the times,” “more relevant questions,” “Questions that are more modern,” “our tests need to be updated & modern,” “more questions that reflect today’s society,” “should be changed every few years as the world progresses to update” were among the many comments in this vein. Another recurring theme expressed by parents, but far more so by students in favor of SAT change, is the desire to see the test shortened. “Make it shorter” was echoed repeatedly throughout the comments, with many students advocating elimination of the essay section.

Jeff Olson, Vice President of Data Science at Kaplan Test Prep, noted that the earliest cohort to potentially be impacted by a new SAT would be the class of 2016, or today’s freshmen, who may see an SAT aligned to Common Core Learning Standards. “While the SAT administrator has not given specifics on proposed test changes, all indications are that a new SAT will see content that’s aligned to Common Core Standards and put a greater emphasis on college readiness skills,” said Olson.

For more information about the upcoming changes to the SAT and Kaplan Test Prep’s survey, please contact Russell Schaffer at 212.453.7538 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com. For updates on the changes, visit www.kaptest.com/satchange.

SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

*From a Kaplan March 2013 e-survey of 396 students who took a Kaplan SAT course and took the March SAT.

**From a Kaplan March 2013 e-survey of 302 parents whose high school children will take or have taken the SAT or ACT®.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 90 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO)

Contacts:

Press:
Kaplan Test Prep
Russell Schaffer, 212-453-7538
russell.schaffer@kaplan.com
Twitter: @KapTestNews
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