SAT Releases Preview Of New Test Questions

Apr 16, 2014
Originally published on April 16, 2014 12:30 pm

High school students planning to take the SAT in 2016 can now look up sample questions to the new version of the college admissions test.

The College Board, the company that owns the SAT, announced last month that it was making big changes to the test, which has lost ground to the rival ACT test.

Among the key changes:

  1. A move away from “obscure words” to focus on “relevant words, the meanings of which depend on how they’re used.”
  2. “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Essay sections” where students will “be asked to demonstrate their ability to interpret, synthesize, and use evidence found in a wide range of sources.”
  3. The essay will now be optional and it ask students to read a passage and explain “how the author builds an argument to persuade an audience.”
  4. Problems will be set in a “real-world” context.
  5. Every test will include a passage from a U.S. “founding document” like the Declaration of Independence, or something from the “great global conversation” about civic life.
  6. There will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers.

Guests

  • Ned Johnson, president of Prep Matters, which offers academic tutoring, test preparation and college counseling.
  • Bill Dingledine, independent educational consultant in Greenville, South Carolina. He was on the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

And today, the College Board, the company that oversees the SAT, released more details about the changes that are coming.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

The College Board announced last month that it was going to overhaul the test, which has lost ground to its rival, the ACT. Among the key changes: words considered obscure would be replaced by words considered relevant. So instead of propinquity, which I know you will miss, Jeremy...

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: ...a student might be asked to explain how the word intense is being used in a sentence.

HOBSON: Also, the essay on the test will be optional, and the top score will go back to the good old 1,600 from the current 2,400. Every test is going to include a passage from an original document like the Declaration of Independence, and there will no longer be an extra penalty for wrong answers. Ned Johnson is president of Prep Matters in Washington, D.C. He says the College Board is trying to make the SAT more relevant.

NED JOHNSON: At the end of the day, if things will - if the test aligns more with what kids know in school, that has to be better for them. You know, it aligns their interest more and makes better use of their time. The biggest challenge with the change of the SAT is that change creates uncertainty, it creates unpredictability. And it just makes people really anxious. And stressed brains don't work well.

YOUNG: But many critics say the new test won't address the underlying problem with standardized tests. Bill Dingledine is an educational consultant in Greenville, South Carolina.

BILL DINGLEDINE: I really don't think it's going to change a whole lot because students and families who have a lot of money can pay to get additional testing, tutoring, schooling to prepare for the test. The original SAT was thought of as an aptitude test, and I think there are lots of skills and abilities that are not tested with the new test.

YOUNG: And, again, these changes do not go into effect until 2016.

HOBSON: And, by the way, tomorrow we're going to be talking to a college counselor, someone who helps high school students navigate the complex world of college admissions, which now can depend on demographics as much as your test scores. We want to hear from you and get your questions answered. You can send them to us at facebook.com/hereandnowradio, or you can go to hereandnow.org. Or send us a tweet, @hereandnow.

YOUNG: By the way, propinquity: nearness in time, space or kinship.

HOBSON: Use it in a sentence today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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