Professor praises SAT shortening exams to give students more time: Not ‘applying to join a bomb squad’

A college professor hailed news the SATs would be shortened to give students more time as a “game-changer” that would benefit most students.

“For decades, educators have seen speed as a marker of aptitude or mastery, forcing students to scramble to finish tests. But a race against the clock doesn’t measure knowledge or intelligence. It assesses the much narrower skill of how well students reason under stress. As a result, timed tests underestimate the capabilities of countless students,” Dr. Adam Grant wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

In 2022, the College Board, which develops and administers the college readiness exams, announced it would shorten the test from three hours to two and allow exam-takers to use a calculator on all the math sections, beginning next year.

Grant, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, argued this is a good thing because time pressure rewards students for rushing instead of working at a more deliberate, careful pace. He argued this skill isn’t useful in the real world, where some professions require methodical attention to detail.

“You wouldn’t want a surgeon who rushes through a craniectomy, or an accountant who dashes through your taxes,” he wrote. 


There’s no evidence that being able to do algebra quickly will help prepare students for the real world, even in jobs that depend on speed, he argued. 

“Although it pays to be quick, it also pays to be determined, disciplined and dependable. Strangely, though, the tests that define students’ grades and help determine their educational and professional fates are rarely designed for deliberation. They evaluate students as if they’re applying to join a bomb squad or appear on ‘Jeopardy,'” Grant wrote. “Time pressure rewards students who think fast and shallow — and punishes those who think slow and deep.”

The professor pointed to studies that purport to show more time can shrink the gender gap seen in some math tests, and improve the performance of groups with learning and reading difficulties. 

Some parents have tried to take advantage of the extended time given to students with disabilities by faking learning difficulties to “game the system.” Instead, every student should be given this opportunity, he argued. 


“This madness has to end. If a significant portion of the students run out of time, it means the test is too long or the time period is too short,” Grant insisted.

The professor said he suspects the new rules will be a “game-changer” in education. Students should show more confidence and less anxiety around taking tests, and have “a more realistic preview of what it takes to excel in the future,” he argued.

“In school, timed tests teach kids that success is a sprint. But in life, success is a marathon. Wisdom is less about the speed of thought than the complexity of thinking. The students with the greatest potential aren’t always the ones who can rapidly spit out the right answers. They’re often the ones who take the time to ask the right questions,” he concluded.


As the College Board conducted research on whether giving students more time would change test completion rates, they came up with staggering results.

“On average, 97 percent of students complete all questions in a section with up to seven minutes to spare on each section,” Chief Executive Officer David Coleman said of the new tests to the Times. “It’s time we stop confusing quick with smart,” he said.

Many colleges dropped college entrance exam requirements during the coronavirus pandemic but some have moved to eliminate these exams altogether, claiming they are biased against students of color.

Columbia University became the first Ivy League school to permanently drop its SAT and ACT standardized test requirements for undergraduate admissions. The Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science announced last March that going forward applicants have the option, but are not required, to send in ACT and SAT scores.

The Associated Press reported that standardized test scores for high school seniors taking the ACT in 2022 were the lowest they’ve been since 1991.

“The class of 2022’s average ACT composite score was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 that the average score was below 20. What’s more, an increasing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject-area benchmarks set by the ACT — showing a decline in preparedness for college-level coursework,” a report from October 2022 said.

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