SAT exam undergoes an intense makeover

Filed in Exams News by on April 16, 2014 0 Comments

To use a sample word offered by the College Board, interest in the redesigned SAT college entrance exam — coming in spring 2016 — is likely to be intense.

The word “intense” shows up in a sample test question illustrating the idea of understanding words in context, with a passage using intense in a sentence referring to “more intense clusterings of jobs, innovation and productivity.”

The correct answer for the nearest meaning of intense is b. concentrated, but the other three choices — emotional, brilliant and determined — might describe some students preparing for the new exam.

While the College Board announced the new test in March, it released today more detailed explanations and test specifications, including sample test questions in a draft form. The test is still under development.

Once known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and now simply as the SAT, the test has morphed into an achievement test.

“The redesigned SAT is an achievement test,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment for the College Board.

In making that change, Ms. Schmeiser said the College Board is using the “aspects of achievement that are absolutely essential for college and career readiness and success.”

Of SAT test takers in 2013, 57 percent did not have the academic skills to succeed in college-entry, credit-bearing courses without remediation in at least one subject, according to the College Board.

The competing ACT college entrance exam has long been considered an achievement test.

Ms. Schmeiser acknowledged both are now achievement tests, but added, “That’s where the similarity departs because it’s really, really important to look at what the redesigned SAT is measuring with regard to achievement.”

The new SAT will switch from the current 2400 points — 800 points each on three tests in math, critical reading and writing– back to 1600 — 800 points each on two tests, one called evidence-based reading and writing, and the other math.

While the current test requires an essay as part of the writing exam, the new test will have an optional essay with a separate score.

Among other changes, the test no longer has sentence completions in which students choose the best word to fill in a blank, sometimes with an obscure word.

Instead, the test uses “high utility” words that are useful for college and career readiness and success and get their meaning from their context.

Thus, words unlikely to be found on the new SAT include obsequious, propinquity, enervation, punctilious and lachrymose, according to Jim Patterson, executive director, assessment design and development.

In addition to the word “intense,” the sample questions include a portion of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which uses “dedicated” meaning devoted and “dedicate” meaning at one point setting aside for a particular purpose and, elsewhere, meaning as to consecrate.

The explanation notes, “Although, of course, no one SAT question could get at all of these usages and levels of meaning, the redesigned test could, for instance, focus on how two different uses of a word such as ‘dedicate’ vary in meaning, tone and overall rhetorical effect.”

Students also will have to show a “command of evidence.” For example, after one sample reading passage, they must choose which lines from the reading give the best evidence for a distinction between two parties drawn by the late U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas.

All test forms will have a selection from a U.S. founding document or from a text from what the College Board calls the “Great Global Conversation,” such as the Jordan text.

On the math side, a calculator is permitted for only some, not all, of the problems on the new test. The new test specifications state the no-calculator section will “help assure postsecondary instructors that students who earn high scores on the SAT do not lack the basic prerequisites.”

Math problems are being designed to reflect a real-world context, such as a question based on a graph of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s counting of Florida manatees from 1991 to 2011 and another with an international context asking students to convert dollars to Indian rupees, both of those using a calculator.

But without a calculator, they have to figure out how an equation relates to time needed for a printing job or find a common denominator and solve an equation.

The current SAT takes three hours and 45 minutes. The new SAT will take three hours for the two required tests — evidence-based reading and writing plus math — with an additional 50 minutes for the optional essay.

The evidence-based reading and writing test will have two sections: reading, and writing and language.

On the new reading portion, students will spend 65 minutes and read 3,250 words from four single passages and one pair of passages.

That would be the equivalent of about eight pages in a book with 400 words on a page.

The complexity of the text will range from ninth-grade level to postsecondary entry level. Informational graphics will be included. The content will come from U.S. and world literature, history/social studies and science.

There will be 52 multiple choice questions, focusing on words in context, command of evidence and analysis in history/social studies and analysis in science.

The writing and language portion will run 35 minutes and include 1,700 words from four passages.

Of the 44 multiple choice questions in that section, most are on the expression of ideas and standard English conventions, but some cover the categories on the reading test.

The content of the passages will be divided equally among careers, history/social studies, humanities and science.

The math test lasts 80 minutes and has 57 questions, 37 using calculators and 20 not using them. Each section takes 55 minutes and 25 minutes, respectively.

Most of the math questions — 45 — will be multiple choice, but students will need to “grid in” answers for 12 questions.

Unlike the current test, there is no penalty for wrong answers.

Source: post-gazette

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