Have you ever wondered why high school diplomas always requires science and social studies courses, but college tests like the SAT haven’t covered those subject areas? After all, if those subjects are important to study, why weren’t they included on assessments?
Since its inception in 1959, SAT’s competitor, the ACT, has consisted of four tests. Originally these were English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences, but in 1989, the Social Studies test was changed into a Reading section (which included a Social Studies subsection). The science section, a mad dash of 40 challenging questions in 35 minutes, often constitutes the lowest of the 4 grades due to its rigor and speed. That little science section packs a whollop, as any of us who have tutored it for many years will attest.
Now, the ACT has become a go-to option preferred by certain colleges for students planning majors in the STEM subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Their reasoning is obvious. All colleges accept scores from students on both tests, but all students do not perform equally well on them, based on their academic strengths. Math and science kids have been moving from the SAT to the ACT in droves.
The new SAT, although not initiating a new section per se, will incorporate a higher level of practical analytical skills rather than the more theory-based questions of the previous exam – and science and social studies comprise much of that shift.
Students will be required to demonstrate English and math skills by answering targeted questions in the context of history, social studies and science using informative graphics. These will appear in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (50%) as well as the Math section (50%).
The purpose for this, according to the College Board, is to develop and assess skills aimed to prepare students for the real world as they continue to higher education. That’s great, but if you want to know why I am excited about this change, it’s this: my personal hope is that the current generation will forge a cultural renaissance toward civic-mindedness. Being able to aptly analyze political developments, new discoveries, global events, health and various environmental issues could actually impact the world we will inhabit, not just comprise a bunch of ultimately meaningless scores in some administrator’s desk.