Recently, a head of school emailed asking for a concise answer as to why the College Board (makers of the SAT) decided to redesign the PSAT and SAT exams. Our response is reproduced below:
In short, the reason is market share.
While the ACT and College Board are technically nonprofits, they do combined business each year in the hundreds of millions. Sometimes their actions appear to be more like multi-national corporations than educationally-minded institutions.
Two trends have emerged over the last few years:
1) More students are taking the ACT: In 2012, more kids took the ACT than the SAT for the first time ever. The ACT hasn't looked back since, with more and more students shifting to the ACT every year.
2) State testing is being handed over to the ACT and College Board: This was where the College Board really got caught with their pants down. Before they knew it, the ACT had contracted 20 states to replace their state testing with versions of the ACT or PLAN (now called the ASPIRE). However, since the SAT redesigned its exam to align with nationwide common core curriculum it has secured several states of its own -- including a three-year, $14.3 million contract with the state of Illinois, a traditional ACT stronghold.
Conclusion: It appears that the College Board felt as though they didn't have a choice but to redesign their exam to try to reverse the aforementioned trends.
So what did they do?
They hired David Coleman from the ACT -- the guy who built the ACT's state-testing empire. He was also one of only five people on the standards writing team for both the Mathematical and English Language Arts portions of the Common Core. Coleman oversaw the redesign of the SAT to ensure it aligned with the Common Core standards. (What this means for students is that math will now be much more important on the SAT and more difficult.)
As a side note, we're recommending that the majority of class of 2017 students move forward with the ACT over the SAT. If you're interested in that topic, we have a blog post that explains our reasoning.