By Ariel Zirulnick
With three test dates behind it, the “new” SAT is now an established fact for high school students across the country.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) received a long-debated overhaul just in time for the class of 2006 to be the first to experience a radically changed high school standard. Analogies and quantitative comparisons used to be the bane of a junior’s college aspirations; now the blame falls to essays and algebra II.
The SAT has not been changed this drastically in a decade. Analogies were eliminated from the verbal section and questions based on shorter reading passages were added, while the section was renamed “Critical Reading.”
The mathematics section now features questions based on trigonometry and algebra II, in addition to algebra I and geometry; the writing section is an entirely new section, consisting of a 25-minute essay and multiple-choice questions based on grammar and word usage. Even the scores have changed. A perfect score was a 1600 – now it is a 2400.
Many students bemoaned the modifications, hating that they became guinea pigs for one of the biggest changes in the exam’s history. Many educators approved, saying that it was a more rounded exam and therefore a more indicative measurement of a student’s academic abilities.
As one of the proclaimed “guinea pigs,” I can’t say I minded the changes. I have always been a stronger English student than anything else and the addition of a writing section was more than welcome.
I felt like this was a more accurate assessment of any student’s academic abilities – being able to communicate ideas and information is crucial to success. If a student performs brilliantly on multiple-choice exams but cannot put that same knowledge down on a piece of paper articulately, how will he be capable of basic writing assignment necessary in college and afterwards?
SAT scores have become one of a handful of crucial admission factors for most universities in the United States. If a student is accepted because of his intelligence, as demonstrated by his SAT scores, he must be able to perform at the standard he demonstrates. If the student lacks the ability to write a proper essay, he will be unable to achieve the grades expected of him, brilliant or not.
Another complaint was the length of the new SAT. Formerly a solid three-hour exam, it is now forty-five minutes longer, with a 25-minute essay to begin it all. The test was broken up into ten sections, each no longer than 25-minutes or shorter than 10-minutes. Breaks were frequent enough that I felt clear-headed throughout the exam, but not so long that I lost focus. Had there not been as many breaks, the test may have felt unnecessarily long – as it stands, most students said it didn’t seem nearly as drawn out as they expected.
In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the changes made. The extra 45 minutes were a bit more trying. The math was more difficult and the essay added an element that made the exam more challenging overall.
But take into consideration the importance of the SAT – wouldn’t you rather a measure of your own intelligence be as accurate and telling as possible? That’s what this gave us.
For practice tests, visit www.collegeboard.com.