The redesigned SAT made its debut Wednesday, offering a glimpse of what will be required on a revamped test that officials say is more grounded in the skills and knowledge students need in college.
“No longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their test pencils down,” The College Board, creator of the test, said on its website. “The redesigned SAT will engage students in close reading and honor the best work of the classroom.”
The College Board announced March 5 it was revamping the college admissions exam, which is taken by about 1.7 million students annually. The SAT, last revised in 2005 when an essay was added, had been criticized as out of touch from what students learn in high school. Once taken by the majority of college-bound high school students, the SAT is losing ground to the rival ACT exam, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. And with research indicating that high school grade point averages are a better predictor of college success, a growing number of colleges and universities are making the admissions tests optional for students.
The College Board on Wednesday unveiled sample questions (see examples below) and more details about the revamped test, which officials said will make it more relevant to high schoolers’ lives. College Board President David Coleman, who was appointed in 2012, was also closely involved in the writing of the Common Core State Standards in math and English, voluntary guidelines on what students should know. The standards have been adopted by California and 44 other states.
The new test, which debuts for students in spring 2016, requires more analysis of texts, asking students to interpret meaning and demonstrate their answers. The math section focuses on problem solving and data analysis, algebra skills such as linear equations, and “advanced math.”
The essay section is now optional for students, and calculators won’t be allowed on some sections. The test is also shorter – three hours, down from three hours, 45 minutes – and the best possible score is again 1600; the top score had climbed to 2400 when the essay was added. Students who opt to take the essay will receive a separate score for the writing portion.
“The test will be more open and clear than any in our history,” said the College Board’s chief of assessment, Cynthia B. Schmeiser, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It is an achievement test, anchored in what is important and needed for kids to be ready and succeed in college.”
One critic, however, called the changes “cosmetic” and said they do little to address problems with the test, which include issues of equity and access for low-income students as well as questions
about how relevant the test is for predicting college success.
“Rather than improve the measurement quality of the SAT, most of the upcoming adjustments seem designed to win back market share from the ACT and slow adoption of test-optional policies,” said a statement from Bob Schaeffer with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which advocates for universities to adopt test-optional admissions policies.
Here are some sample questions released by the College Board:
The following question asks students to interpret the meanings of words based on context.
“The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions. Some regions could end up bloated beyond the capacity of their infrastructure, while others struggle, their promise stymied by inadequate human or other resources.” (Adapted from Richard Florida, “The Great Reset.”)
The word “intense” most nearly means
The following question asks students to demonstrate a command of algebra.
“When a scientist dives in salt water to a depth of 9 feet below the surface, the pressure due to the atmosphere and surrounding water is 18.7 pounds per square inch. As the scientist descends, the pressure increases linearly. At a depth of 14 feet, the pressure is 20.9 pounds per square inch. If the pressure increases at a constant rate as the scientist’s depth below the surface increases, which of the following linear models best describes the pressure p in pounds per square inch at a depth of d feet below the surface?”
A) p = 0.44d + 0.77
B) p = 0.44d + 14.74
C) p = 2.2d – 1.1
D) p = 2.2d – 9.9
Additional sample questions can be found on the College Board website.