Timed SAT is controversial

Since its beginning, the SAT has been a timed test.  But now critics are charging that deep thinking cannot be fairly evaluated that way (“Support Builds For Making the SAT Untimed For Everyone,” Education Next, Winter 2020).  They argue that students should be able to demonstrate what they’ve learned without worrying about the clock.

I submit that it all depends on the kind of knowledge and skills being assessed.  When I was working on my M.S. in journalism at UCLA, professors made a distinction between writing a news article and writing an editorial.  The former depended on speed because news was perishable.  The latter depended on rumination because it relied on forming opinions.  As a result, students were required to write under both conditions.

If the SAT were to become untimed, it would make it difficult to draw valid inferences about a students’ ability to work under pressure once they were admitted to college.  It would also lead to demands for accommodations by students, making it hard to compare students. So unless there is better evidence that eliminating the present timed requirement will be an improvement over what exists now, I see little reason to change.

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