New SAT Test Controversy Prompts Change

new-SAT-test.jpgAmidst substantial criticism, the College Board has vowed to make additional changes to the new SAT test. Since its release in March, the new SAT test has been scrutinized by students and educators for excessively wordy and hard-to-understand passages in the math section, making it difficult for students to complete the test in the allotted time frame — especially for students who speak English as a second language.

Why change the old SAT at all? In its restructure, the College Board aimed to align the test with the Common Core principles and to eliminate the previous use of perplexing vocabulary words in all sections.

The new SAT test also features a revised scoring system. The SAT scoring does not penalize students for guessing and only counts correct answers toward their total score, encouraging students to “… go ahead and give your best answer to every question — there’s no advantage to leaving them blank.”

Is the Math Section Adding Up?

The updated mathematics section of the new SAT test has been called out by critics on the implications of word-saturated excerpts (40–60 words) preceding math questions. According to a Reuters article released this week, about half of the test takers were unable to finish the math sections on a prototype version of the exam back in 2014. Some critics even argue that these complex and wordy math sections could reinforce racial and income disparities.

“The students that are in the most academically vulnerable position when it comes to high-stakes testing are being particularly marginalized,” said Anita Bright, a professor at Portland State University.

In defense of the wording used in the math section of the new SAT test, the College Board claims that the new method tests students on math skills necessary for college and career readiness. However, in recent weeks, the College Board chair, David Coleman, advocated for adjustments to be made.

“We are going to do everything we can to further simplify the mathematics section. Using superfluous words is superfluous,” Coleman said, later adding, “Every extra word should go. Complex, distracting situations should go.”

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Photo credit: 1st image by Jeremy Mikkola

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