“New” SAT Launched

University Testing

The late-June unveiling of the “new” SAT I was in many ways anti-climatic. Demonstrating the priority the College Board placed on protecting the market for its much criticized admissions test, the proposed revisions had been leaked to the news media long before being revealed to the association’s membership (see Examiner, Spring 2002)
The revised test, which will be administered for the first time in March 2005, includes only the minimum revisions necessary to address concerns raised by the University of California, which had threatened to drop the test (see Examiner, Spring 2002, Spring 2001). The changes include:

• elimination of Verbal analogy and Math quantitative comparison questions;
• relabelling what is now the Verbal test as “Critical Reading” because of the addition of multiple-choice items based on short passages
• expansion of Math content to include advanced algebra; and
• inclusion of a new “Writing” test

Although most media attention focused on the addition of an “essay” item, the highly touted SAT I Writing Test turns out to be nothing more than the current SAT II Writing Subject Test with a new name. Both are composed primarily of multiple-choice, copy editing questions. Promoters initially claimed the essay would help refocus high school curricula on communication skills. When pressed, however, they admitted that 33 states already assess writing with similar items. In fact, the new section of the SAT I raises more questions than it answers (see article p.10).

None of these changes address the SAT’s fundamental flaws such as the test’s inaccuracy, bias, and susceptibility to coaching. Nor did the College Board or the exam’s manufacturer, the Educational Testing Service, announce any plans to crack down on widespread misuses of the SAT, such as requiring minimum scores for admissions or scholarships.

The only certain results from the “new” SAT I are increased revenues for the College Board and more business for the test-preparation industry. Though a price tag for the revised exam has not been made public, College Board officials warn that registration fees will soar by $10 to $12 beyond the current $26 level. Coaching companies, such as Kaplan and Princeton Review, are already gearing up for an expected surge of students seeking to buy a leg up on the new exam.

The failure of the College Board to deal with the SAT’s real problems should encourage more schools to question their pre-admission testing requirements. “New” SAT, old SAT or ACT, the experience of the close to 400 colleges that do not require any scores from substantial percentages of their applicants demonstrate that no test is needed (see Examiner, Spring 2001).

• a factsheet on the “new” SAT is available here.