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posted by Cactus on Friday March 07 2014, @04:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the uphill-in-the-snow-both-ways dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Kimberly Hefling reports from AP that the SAT college entrance exam is undergoing sweeping revisions in the first major update since 2005. College Board officials say that this is needed to make the exam more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and afterward.

The test should offer "worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles," says College Board President David Coleman. Scoring will return to a 1,600-point scale last used in 2004. There will be a separate score for the optional essay and students will have the option of taking the test on computers. One of the biggest changes in the SAT is that the extra penalty for wrong answers, which discouraged guessing, will be eliminated and some vocabulary words will be replaced with words such as "synthesis" and "empirical" that are used more widely in classrooms and in work settings. Some high school and college admissions counselors say eliminating the penalty for wrong answers and making the essay optional could make the test less stressful for some students.

College Board is also partnering with Khan Academy to address one of the greatest inequities around college entrance exams, namely the culture and practice of high-priced test preparation which critics call a tool to protect the interests of the elite. "For too long, there's been a well-known imbalance between students who could afford test-prep courses and those who couldn't," says Sal Khan, founder and executive director of Khan Academy, "We're thrilled to collaborate closely with the College Board to level the playing field by making truly world-class test-prep materials freely available to all students."

 
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  • (Score: 1) by Ryuugami on Friday March 07 2014, @08:44AM

    by Ryuugami (2925) on Friday March 07 2014, @08:44AM (#12557)

    Huh, is this the end of "no kid left behind"?

    Doesn't seem like it. Observe:

    Some high school and college admissions counselors say eliminating the penalty for wrong answers and making the essay optional could make the test less stressful for some students.

    While I do agree with eliminating the penalty for wrong answers and such, the above makes me suspicious of the real intent. It doesn't really seem like they gave up on the "all kids are idiots" policy, and that can only mean more trouble ahead.

    --
    If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07 2014, @09:22AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07 2014, @09:22AM (#12567)

    While I do agree with eliminating the penalty for wrong answers

    Why? It seems to be logical to me. Note that in real life, a wrong answer can also be worse than a simple "I don't know". For example, if you don't know whether that bridge over there is stable enough to drive with my car over it, I certainly prefer "I don't know" to "Yes" if the true answer is "No".

    • (Score: 1) by Ryuugami on Friday March 07 2014, @12:01PM

      by Ryuugami (2925) on Friday March 07 2014, @12:01PM (#12610)

      Well, it may be just because I don't actually know what those tests look like. For multiple choice questions, if you are asked when the French Revolution was and one of the answers offered was 1798, should you be penalized for marking it? It's only a few years difference, for an event over 200 years in the past. Likewise, if you lose a sign in a math problem and your (wrong) answer is one of the provided ones but you did everything else right, should you be penalized for it?

      In both cases, a zero seems to be penalty enough to me. If there are enough answers offered, those who try to rely on guessing won't go far in any case (as explained in this xkcd "what if?" [xkcd.com]), so I don't see much of a point anyway. It just discourages those who have enough knowledge to make an educated guess, but not enough to be 100% certain.

      What I want to say is, while "Yes", "No", and "I don't know" are great, unambiguous choices, sometimes "Probably" is good enough. Not always, but sometimes.

      --
      If a shit storm's on the horizon, it's good to know far enough ahead you can at least bring along an umbrella. - D.Weber
      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday March 07 2014, @12:44PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Friday March 07 2014, @12:44PM (#12622)

        Those aren't the sort of questions asked, because the SAT is supposed to be measuring aptitude, not trivia. For example, they're trying to make sure students can comprehend what they read and juggle algebraic equations in their heads, not whether they know what a pluperfect subjunctive is.

        I thoroughly disagree with the changes, which I suspect were made because students were opting for the ACT instead of the SAT because the ACT was perceived as an easier test. Some of the problems I have:
        - I believe that skipping a question (i.e. admitting "I don't know") is indeed less wrong than guessing wrong.

        - The "obscure" vocabulary used in the test isn't all that obscure or unusual in academic writing. The difference between the right word and the almost-right word can be critical to comprehending the nuances of language, so including those words is in fact testing the ability of a student to understand what they read.

        - Writing should absolutely remained a part of the test. College students who cannot write a decent essay are absolutely crippled in their studies. Back in my college days, I would regularly see the drivel they came up with on the shared printers on the very last day to submit final papers.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Friday March 07 2014, @01:37PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 07 2014, @01:37PM (#12643)

          "isn't all that obscure or unusual in academic writing."

          This may fit in with the cultural shift from university as a preparation or filter for academic jobs, to the more modern, now you need a very expensive vocational training credential to do the same job high school grads used to do.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Hawkwind on Friday March 07 2014, @04:42PM

    by Hawkwind (3531) on Friday March 07 2014, @04:42PM (#12769)

    There are some definite moves to make the questions more accessible. An example:


    • Passages of writing used for various parts of the exam will be texts from significant moments in American history or science, not the somewhat random selections that now appear. Each exam will feature works such as the Declaration of Independence or a selection from the Federalist Papers, or Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

     

    I'm OK with the writing changes. Per the College Board admissions officers were split on whether the writing test was valuable, and the changes made should remove some of the silliness: Fooling the College Board [insidehighered.com].

    As to the point that this is about the ACT, that's my take also. A good eight point summary and analysis can be found at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/06/coll ege-board-unveils-plans-new-sat-including-complete ly-revamped-writing-test [insidehighered.com].