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‘Adaptive’ Sections in the Fully Digital SAT Launched a Debate About Fairness in College Admissions

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The SAT has completely gone digital, a historic change for college admissions exams, and it now has a “adaptive” testing format that adjusts question difficulty in response to students’ responses. This action, which aims to give applicants a more customized assessment experience, has sparked discussion about how it might affect the fairness of the admissions process.

In each of the two test sections (math and reading and writing) under the new format, students will face two equally timed modules with dynamically adjusting question complexity based on past answers. The College Board, which administers the SAT, claims that this method guarantees that every student is given questions that are specific to their level of ability, with the goal of giving a more accurate representation of their abilities and accomplishments.

But questions have been raised about the test’s uniformity and impartiality. Although students who answer simpler questions in the second module are guaranteed not to receive any penalties, concerns remain regarding the possible repercussions for those who attempt more difficult questions. Many have questioned the test’s impartiality and uniformity among test-takers in light of the College Board’s silence on the subject.

Furthermore, in the middle of these adjustments, prestigious universities like Dartmouth College, Yale University, and Brown University are going back to using test results as part of their admissions requirements. This shift away from test-optional policies, which became popular during the COVID-19 epidemic, emphasizes how important standardized exams are in determining how prepared applicants are for college.

The decision to reinstate the need for standardized testing stems from worries about fair admissions assessments, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Standardized test results, according to admissions officers, are an essential indicator of a student’s readiness for academic success, particularly for those from lower-income schools.

However, proponents of test-optional admissions argue that these rules have not hurt students, pointing to favorable admissions results during the test-optional time. The argument over the usefulness of standardized testing in determining students’ preparedness for postsecondary education is still being debated, despite changes in the college admissions environment.

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