As you may have seen from other of my recent articles, the insanity of college admissions reached new heights (or depths, depending on your point of view) this year. Stanford University led the pack with a mindbogglingly low 5.1% acceptance rate. A healthy group of other colleges boasted similarly frightening low numbers. One wonders what the ultimate resolution of this spiral (or nosedive) will be. Maybe some day a few colleges will attain the pinnacle of selectivity and admit no one. It will be hard to top a 0% acceptance rate, although some will try. I can see the headlines now: Harvard sets new record with -3.2% acceptance rate; 213 undergrads told to leave.
There’s something to be said for being #1. I doubt that it will ever get to that point, but The College Board (they like that “The” to be capitalized in their name) has purposed to ease all this insanity by making their vaunted SAT more practical, eschewing arcane vocabulary words and putting a happier face on those little answer sheet circles. The story behind the story, however, emits a fragrance of competitiveness. The College Board has seen their main competitor in the field of standardized testing — the ACT — make huge strides over the past decade, not only in market share but also from a reputation and admissions benchmark standpoint.
For The College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS), it must be hard to look in their rear view mirrors and see #2 emerging from that former cloud of dust and closing the gap. Thus, in this writer’s jaded opinion, the story of the “new” SAT is really about that “old” story of market dominance, a phrase that really means “more money now!”
So, what is so new about the 2016 SAT? Of course the national media have been eager to report on this story. They seem to know that mentioning or printing the letters “S-A-T” draws immediate attention. The heavyweight PR campaign began a day or so ago with CB’s (I’m dropping “The” formality) release of some sample new questions from the redesigned test. Here are a few, along with some comments from media sources.
The New York Times‘ Tamar Lewin gives us a bit of background taken from a CB’s official’s press release:
… One big change is in the vocabulary questions, which will no longer include obscure words. Instead, the focus will be on what the College Board calls “high utility” words that appear in many contexts, in many disciplines — often with shifting meanings — and they will be tested in context. For example, a question based on a passage about an artist who “vacated” from a tradition of landscape painting, asks whether it would be better to substitute the word “evacuated,” “departed” or “retired,” or to leave the sentence unchanged. (The right answer is “departed.”)
The test will last three hours, with another 50 minutes for an optional essay in which students will be asked to analyze a text and how the author builds an argument. The essays will be scored for reading, analysis and writing, and those scores will be reported separately from the other sections of the SAT. The current test includes a required 25-minute essay in which students are asked to take a position on an issue and which is graded without regard to factual accuracy.
The new test will have a 65-minute critical reading section with 52 questions, a 35-minute written language test with 44 questions, and an 80-minute math section with 57 questions. The language and math sections will each be scored from 200 to 800, and the top composite score will be 1,600. While the current test allows calculator use, the new one will have some sections that do not. Also, instead of five multiple-choice answers, the new test will have four …
MarketWatch.com previews 13 new SAT questions released for public consumption by CB:
- A) NO CHANGE
- B) box. From just a few primary colors,
- C) box from just a few primary colors,
- D) box, from just a few primary colors
- A) NO CHANGE
- B) parts: “king” and “man,”
- C) parts “king” and “man”;
- D) parts; “king” and “man”
- A) NO CHANGE
- B) Chinese landscape artists
- C) painters of Chinese landscapes
- D) artists
- A) NO CHANGE
- B) evacuated
- C) departed
- D) retired
- A) where it is now.
- B) before sentence 1.
- C) after sentence 1.
- D) after sentence 4.
- A) Kingman is considered a pioneer of the California Style school of painting.
- B) Although cities were his main subject, Kingman did occasionally paint natural landscapes.
- C) In his urban landscapes, Kingman captures the vibrancy of crowded cities.
- D) In 1929 Kingman moved to Oakland, California, where he attended the Fox Art School.
- A) internationally, and Kingman also garnered
- B) internationally; from exhibiting, he garnered
- C) internationally but garnered
- D) internationally, garnering
- A) (99.95 + 0.08x) + 5
- B) 1.08(99.95x) + 5
- C) 1.08(99.95x + 5)
- D) 1.08(99.95 + 5)x
- A) f(t) = 17 − 21/50t
- B) f(t) = 17 − 50t/21
- C) f(t) = (17 − 21t)/50
- D) f(t) = (17 − 50t)/21
- A) 9/17
- B) 9/13
- C) 33/17
- D) 33/13
- A) −3/2
- B) 1/4
- C) 1/2
- D) 11/9
- A) x + y = 1,338 | 6.5x + 10y = 187
- B) x + y = 187 | 6.5x +10y = 1,338/2
- C) x + y = 187 | 6.5x + 10y = 1,338
- D) x + y = 187 | 6.5x + 10y = 1,338 × 2
- A) The time, in hours, that it takes the slower printer to complete the printing job alone
- B) The portion of the job that the slower printer would complete in one hour
- C) The portion of the job that the faster printer would complete in two hours
- D) The time, in hours, that it takes the slower printer to complete 1/5 of the printing job
To get a more comprehensive grasp of what all these changes mean to you or your aspiring college applicant, I suggest that you do a Web search for more information and commentary.
Then, just for grins and giggles, as a fun friend of mine is prone to say, check this thread on the College Confidential discussion forum: The New SAT Will Widen the Education Gap. Some of the posters there have some less-than-shimmering views of the new SAT.
So, see you in 2016. All #2 pencils welcome.
Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles at College Confidential.