The All “New” (Recycled) SAT

University Testing

The first versions of the aggressively promoted “new” SAT relied heavily on recycled questions and entire sections of “old” tests.


The Sunday, March 13 exam, available to “Sabbath observers” who could not take the test on Saturday due to religious reasons, contained exactly the same items administered the previous day except for a different essay prompt. Students who took the Sunday test potentially had a huge advantage because its questions and answers were readily available on open Internet sites. For example, several messages posted on the website on Saturday afternoon included answers to all ten of that day’s open-ended SAT Math questions, as well as many other test items.


The College Board’s reuse of nearly a complete, supposedly “secure” test raises serious concerns about the validity of Sunday’s scores. At a minimum, that day’s exam was not administered under “standardized” conditions, since some Sunday test-takers may have seen questions and answers in advance.


Reports from test-takers also indicate that both the Saturday and Sunday exams reused sections from previous SATs. Apparently, many multiple-choice grammar questions on the now-mandatory SAT I “Writing” test had also been used on the November 2002 SAT II “Writing” exam. The bulk of the Math section was recycled from March 2002. In addition, an essay prompt dealing with “majority rule” included on some Saturday tests was nearly identical to a practice item used in Princeton Review coaching courses.


The College Board has confirmed that the Saturday and Sunday March tests were the same, except for the essay, but has not commented on whether sections were recycled from old exams.


The word ‘new’ is clearly an advertising slogan, not an accurate description of this year’s model SAT. In scores of news reports, FairTest had labeled the 2005 revision of the SAT “a cynical marketing ploy” aimed at slowing growth in the number of colleges that choose to drop the test as an admissions requirement and increasing the College Board’s revenues rather than addressing historic problems of bias, inaccuracy and susceptibility to coaching (see Examiner, Winter 2004-2005).