Key Shifts of the SAT Redesign

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

The College Board is redesigning the SAT. Most notably, it’s pulling the essay section back out and returning the test to two sections, scored from 200 to 800 each — so the max score will once again be 1600, rather than 2400.

The essay section also happens to be extremely game-able.

Another change, rather more odd, is the shift away from point deductions for wrong answers. On a multiple-choice test, a small penalty for wrong answers is a simple way to make leaving a question blank worth as much as blindly guessing the answer — but it’s also confusing and frightening to many unprepared students.

The SAT math section always struck me as rather narrow, but in a good way. It seemed focused on the math that mattered. The new math section is going to be even narrower, so that “students can study these core math areas in depth and have confidence that they will be assessed.”

To make something hard to game, you need to make it hard to prepare for at all, or you need to make it something that everyone is already well prepared for.

One change stands out as not fitting this pattern:

Each exam will include a passage drawn from the Founding Documents or the Great Global Conversation. Students read from either a founding document such as the Declaration of Independence or from the conversation they inspire in the United States and around the world, such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or King’s” I Have a Dream” speech.

I expect the prepared students to be really, really prepared to discuss those documents.


  1. Dan Kurt says:

    Perhaps in time the SATs will return to being an IQ test as it once was.

    Bring back the analogies.

    Dan Kurt

    P.S. In 1958 when I took the SATs they were my ticket out of the lower middle class and into the Ivy League.

  2. Bill says:

    The move away from penalizing wrong guesses is no surprise. After all, if multiculturalism is true, there probably aren’t any (singular) correct answers anyway.

    One wonders, though, whether this is the right way to train (for example) doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. After all, it’s important for a doctor to KNOW whether or not he has the right dosage, it’s important for the civil engineer to know if the bridge will stand up, etc.

    As Dan says (above), maybe the SAT will once again produce a score that correlates with IQ. I doubt it. (Remember who funds colleges and university these days.) The reason is that innate ability is not as important as diversity and a cheerful acceptance of corporate workloads. The last thing corporations want is smart people inclined to question everything. What they want are prepared workers who have demonstrated their ability to work hard to complete their assignments on time no matter how much work is involved and no matter how pointless it is.

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