College Board overhauls SAT I

    The SAT I, taken annually by three million students nationwide and by every student applying to the University of California, will get a substantial makeover during the next three years, eliminating analogies, adding an essay and testing students for the first time on Algebra II.

    The new test will first be administered in March 2005.

    The changes announced in June by the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees the SAT I, earned a passing grade from UC President Richard Atkinson.

    “”I am delighted by the College Board’s decision to alter the SAT I examination,”” he stated in a June 27 press release.

    Reactions at UCSD have also been optimistic.

    Mae Brown, director of admissions and outreach, called the changes “”a positive move,”” but was not surprised by the College Board’s overhaul.

    “”They’re very much in line with what we’re requiring students to do anyway,”” she said.

    She added that a writing exam would reflect the four years of English applicants are required to take in high school, and the addition of Algebra II subject matter, the three years or mathematics.

    Brown said it remains to be seen whether there will be significant changes in which the new SAT I is used in UCSD admissions.

    The UC Academic Senate’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools released a report in March calling for a standardized admissions test that would better reflect high school curricula and serve as a better predictor of college success.

    According to B.O.A.R.S. Chair and UCSD professor of chemistry Barbara Sawrey, the changes will do just that.

    “”The announced changes that the trustees of the College Board have approved for the SAT I test, and that the A.C.T. will make to their test, are all in accord with B.O.A.R.S.’s recommendations,”” Sawrey said.

    Atkinson has been vocal in his criticism of the usefulness of the SAT I in UC admissions, asserting it measured aptitude, not achievement, and was out of sync with what students actually needed to learn in order to be ready for college.

    “”We need standardized tests that bear a demonstrable relationship to what students actually study in the high school college-preparatory curriculum,”” he said. “”We also need to focus student attention on mastery of subject matter rather than mastery of test-taking skills.””

    College Board Associate Director of Public Affairs Kristin Carnahan said that while the SAT I changes are timed closely to Atkinson’s criticisms and the B.O.A.R.S. report, their seeds lie in a 1994 study done by the College Board.

    Many changes suggested by that study were made; some were not, but now are being implemented.

    “”What Atkinson said got us to be focused a little sooner on making those changes,”” Carnahan said.

    Changes will be made to both sections of the SAT I.

    According to the College Board, questions drawing upon material from Algebra II will be added to the Mathematics Reasoning Test to test students on subjects covered in a college-preparatory curriculum.

    What was once known as the Verbal Reasoning Test will now be renamed the Critical Reading Test. The name change reflects the shifted focus of the test away from aptitude-measuring analogies and toward questions based on close reading of texts.

    A writing section will also be added to the Critical Reading Test, half of which will be composed of multiple-choice questions on English grammar and usage.

    The other half will be an impromtu essay in which the student responds to an open-ended question — a format that may sound familiar to UC students.

    “”The SAT II writing test has given us the basis for now developing a new SAT I writing component,”” Caperton said.

    Carnahan said the nature of the writing prompt had yet to be determined, but it might require students to write argumentative or persuasive essays.

    The essay will be scored on a scale of one to six by two human readers and evaluated on mechanics and organization, not creativity or flair.

    Despite these differences, Carnahan said, scores on the current test and the new test should more or less equalize, and a student who scores well on one should score well on the other.

    The new test will be developed by Educational Testing Services, which is based in Princeton, NJ. New questions will be researched and tested over the next three years.

    Carnahan said she expected the price of registration for the test to rise from $2 to $10.

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