SAT has new format, but same relevance

Starting next March, the College Board will begin administering the new version of the Scholastic Aptitude Test to high school students around the world — including thousands who, if recent admissions trends hold true, will apply to Yale.

According to the College Board Web site, the new version of the test eliminates the verbal section, replacing it with a critical reading section and a writing section. Each section will be scored out of 800 possible points and, combined with the math section, will bring the total points possible to 2400 instead of 1600.

Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said standardized testing such as the SAT does not play a decisive role in deciding whether or not to admit an applicant to the University.

“[Tests] don’t make or break an applicant,” Shaw said. “They play a role among many roles. Testing is absolutely one of the indicators — both the SAT and ACT, and most often the SAT IIs — that join applications, transcripts and teacher recommendations.”

Shaw said the changes to the SAT will not alter its role in the college admissions process.

“It will continue to be a good indicator of students’ reasoning skills,” he said. “There’s a high level of comparability between the old and the new.”

According to College Board’s web site, the SAT is changing so that “the test is more closely aligned with what students are learning in high school and in college.”

The critical reading section will include both short and long reading passages featuring the same kinds of questions as before. But the analogy questions have been completely eliminated from the test and have been replaced with a new writing section. In this section, according to the College Board, students will be asked to write an essay that requires them to take a position on an issue and use reasoning and examples to support their position.

Students will also answer multiple-choice questions that measure a student’s ability to identify sentence errors and improve sentences and paragraphs.

The types of questions on the writing section, although new to the SAT, are similar to those on the current SAT II Writing test — so similar, in fact, that the College Board plans on discontinuing the SAT II Writing when the new SAT is released in March.

“It’s going to be new for us,” said Shaw. “We require the writing and the optional writing portion of the ACT. We will have access to those essays.”

According to Shaw, if it becomes necessary for an admissions officer to “evaluate a student’s writing compared to the rest of their application,” he might “take advantage” of his ability to review the essay.

Additionally, the math section will now include topics from third-year college preparatory math, including exponential growth, absolute value, functional notation, and negative and fractional exponents.

Revisions to the test, according to the College Board, are the first changes to be made to the exam in 10 years. In 1994, reading passages were made longer and questions regarding antonyms were removed.

Zena Bibler ’08 said the new, longer SAT — it will take 3 hours and 45 minutes — is, unfortunately, like “an endurance test.”

“By making the test so long, they’re asking for too much,” she said.

Norie Pride ’08 said she thinks the sheer amount of test-prep companies such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review have debased the test’s value.

“It’s supposed to measure learning capacity, but it’s so over-taught,” Pride said.

Shaw said he believes that only time will tell whether the test is more “coachable.”

“The issue of ‘coachable’ and ‘test-wise’ are different issues,” Shaw said. “Agencies create a formal approach to being test-wise — It’s important for people to anticipate [what the test will require from them], but it’s more important for them to develop their writing skills in the classroom.”

A student browses SAT test-prep books in Barnes & Noble. The test’s format will change in March.
Lara Melniker
A student browses SAT test-prep books in Barnes & Noble. The test’s format will change in March.

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