College Board Rethinks SAT Exam

college boardThe College Board has been rethinking its oft-criticized SAT test, and they revealed the results of this process in March. The Board, which develops and administers various standardized tests used by educational institutions, says that it will change many of the test’s questions, and even its intent, to better focus on students’ problem-solving abilities. The 88-year-old SAT, which is intended to determine each student’s level of preparedness for admission to colleges and universities, has been the subject of frequent criticism for being less relevant than the rival ACT test. The new test is expected to be used for the first time in 2016.

The redesigned SAT exam will be “more open and clear than any in our history,” says Cynthia Schmeiser, chief of assessment for the College Board. It will be more focused on the sorts of skills and knowledge that students will need to have in order to succeed in the real world. Students will need to exhibit higher analytical abilities, and be able to support their answers using various sources. The College Board believes that requiring this deeper level of thought and calculation on the students’ part will be a better indicator of their preparedness for college. Greater emphasis on problem solving and the recognition of relevant associations will, the Board believes, help to better identify students’ abilities and aptitudes.

The revamped exam is a new direction in the College Board’s thinking regarding the SAT. The essay question, for example, is now designed to better analyze the student’s ability to comprehend the material they are reading. The student must show that they understand certain basic details of the text they are given, they must effectively cite sources, and finally they must write an analysis of the piece that is considered effective and informed. Even the new exam’s multiple-choice questions will be more demanding, requiring students to comprehend the passage in a more complete, overall manner. There are two main changes to the exam’s multiple-choice section. Each question will now list four answers rather than five, and wrong answers will no longer incur a scoring deduction. In the reading portion of the exam, students will have 65 minutes to complete 52 multiple-choice questions. Forty percent of these will be about science, 40 percent about history and social studies, and 20 percent of the passages will be about literature.

While the SAT is still the leading admission exam in many states, the rival ACT exam has been gaining ground in recent years. The SAT remains the leading admissions exam in many states on both the east and west coasts, but the number of students taking the exam has been falling for several years. The ACT, first implemented in 1959, has recently been growing in popularity, even in states where the SAT has been the long-established leader.

The College Board seems to have been monitoring the situation, however, and may well have come to the timely conclusion that the SAT exam needed some serious rethinking.  The new exam’s questions will place a stronger emphasis on “extended thinking,” conceptualizing , and comprehension in a variety of real-world situations–or so the College Board hopes.

By Peter Barreda

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