College Board reformats SATs

By Kate Bowen

On Saturday, March 12 students took the SAT praying they would not get a 1600. Bragging about earning a 1540 would have people laughing.

That was because the Scholastic Aptitude Test became a different test – 45 minutes, a writing prompt and 600 points have been added, making the highest score a 2400. The changes eliminate the need for an SAT II Writing exam.

The College Board, a not-for-profit association in charge of the SAT and its format, made the change after research conducted in response to a proposal by the President of the University of California, Richard Atkinson. In 2001, Atkinson suggested dropping the old SAT, but keeping the new SAT as a qualification for admissions.

Atkinson cited complaints that the test was biased towards wealthy students and had ceased to measure aptitude, but only how well one prepared for the test. According to their Web site, the new SAT falls closer to what is being taught in both high school and college.

The most noticeable difference, besides the new high score, is the time extension for a new addition to the test. The open-ended writing prompt section is 25 minutes long and asks students to take a stance on an issue and to provide examples backing up their position in a well-organized essay.

The College Board said the scorers of the essay are told to grade – based on a scale of 1 to 6 – on quality, not quantity, keeping in mind the time restraint during the test. Two different pairs of eyes will read each essay, while ignoring the quality of the handwriting. If the two scores given are different by more than one point, a third scorer will be brought in and the scores will be averaged.

Along with the new writing prompt, the test no longer asks for analogies; instead it will provide more critical reading passages that will test the same line of thinking. Also, the quantitative comparison math questions have been replaced by third-year level math problems still in multiple-choice form.

Champaign Centennial High School junior Rachel Yoon was among the first wave of students to take the new SAT. The change was announced two years ago, so Yoon had no surprises during the test. While the prompt was easy and abstract enough to make a point, Yoon said the time crunch was difficult to work with.

Centennial High junior Daniel Rolando took the original test before March. Despite receiving a 1540, he will retake the test to get a score for the new SAT.

“I think that (the third year-level math questions) will actually lower it (my score) because before it was more basic stuff that you can just figure out,” he said.

Ed Mears, a counselor at Centennial High, said the changes will not have a huge impact on Illinois students because most of them take the ACT, administered by the Illinois State Board of Education.

“Most schools around the Midwest, almost all the schools in Illinois, will take you with just an ACT score. There’s not always a need to take the SAT,” he said.