- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

The College Board will add a handwritten essay to the SAT, eliminate its analogy section and ask more advanced math questions revisions that reflect the second major overhaul to the college entrance exam in less than a decade.

The revisions, effective in March 2005, were unanimously approved by the board's 24 voting trustees during a meeting at the board's headquarters in New York.

The overhaul came more than a year after the University of California, the largest SAT user, raised doubts about the exam's academic value. The College Board owns the SAT.

A 25-minute essay question the most dramatic of the changes will be included in a new writing section, which also will offer multiple-choice grammar-usage questions. In the verbal section, analogies will be replaced with a text and questions that board members say will better gauge a student's reading ability.

Also, questions from more advanced math courses such as Algebra 2 and trigonometry will be added to the math portion. Quantitative comparisons, such as asking a test-taker to use an algebraic equation to compare the volumes of similar geometric objects, will be dropped.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said the revisions will "only improve the test's current strengths by placing the highest possible emphasis on the most important college success skills reading and mathematics and, now, writing."

"This new test, we believe, will be more aligned with the curriculum and more aligned with state standards," Mr. Caperton said at a news conference yesterday. "Adding an essay question to the test will have a large impact on college education. We know that students will need to prove their writing skills not only in school, but in their careers and in life."

Linda Clement, vice president of the University of Maryland College Park and chairman of the College Board trustees, said the writing section will improve the value of the test. "Research has shown that the addition of a writing test provides increased validity in predicting college success," she said.

The news drew mixed reactions from educators, some of whom argued that the essay section might lead students to ignore more complex styles of writing while focusing on perfecting the short essays. "I'm not sure that's going to build skills that we really want our students to build," said Denise Clark Pope, a lecturer at Stanford University's School of Education.

Others question how the new test will measure students' aptitude for college course work. "This is a real challenge that is skirted, because levels of aptitude vary," said Winfield Myers, with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Delaware. "What will be measured instead is the quantity of knowledge students possess on selected subjects, and such scores are far easier to manipulate through class content and grading than those that measure aptitude."

The current SAT takes about three hours to complete and is made up mostly of multiple-choice questions. Its two sections, math and verbal, each is graded on a scale of 200 to 800 points.

The new writing section also will be scored on a 200 to 800 scale, boosting the top SAT score from 1,600 to 2,400 points. Because of the new section, the test will take a student 3½ hours to finish. The test fee also will increase, from $26 to $38, to cover the cost of grading the essay questions. Low-income students still will be eligible for fee waivers.

The SAT has been modified several times since its creation in 1926. The last major revision was in 1994, after a commission recommended moves to more closely align the test with current curriculum.

The latest changes came after UC President Richard Atkinson threatened to stop using the SAT as a requirement for admission to his eight undergraduate campuses. Mr. Atkinson argued the SAT was not a good indicator of what students learned in school.

Mr. Caperton denied that the College Board's vote to change the test was pushed by Mr. Atkinson's threats to drop it.

An estimated 2.3 million students took the SAT at least once during the 2000-01 school year. Nearly 90 percent of all four-year institutions require the SAT for admission, board members said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide