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The Big Problem With the New SAT (NYT)

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entremet

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AT first glance, the College Board’s revised SAT seems a radical departure from the test’s original focus on students’ general ability or aptitude. Set to debut a year from now, in the spring of 2016, the exam will require students to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of subjects they study in school.

The revised SAT takes some important, if partial, steps toward becoming a test of curriculum mastery. In place of the infamously tricky, puzzle-type items, the exam will be a more straightforward test of material that students encounter in the classroom. The essay, rather than rewarding sheer verbosity, will require students to provide evidence in support of their arguments and will be graded on both analysis and writing. Vocabulary will move away from the obscure language for which the SAT is noted, instead emphasizing words commonly used in college and the workplace.

While a clear improvement, the revised SAT remains problematic. It will still emphasize speed — quick recall and time management — over subject knowledge. Despite evidence that writing is the single most important skill for success in college, the essay will be optional. (Reading and math will still be required.)

And the biggest problem is this: While the content will be new, the underlying design will not change. The SAT will remain a “norm-referenced” exam, designed primarily to rank students rather than measure what they actually know. Such exams compare students to other test takers, rather than measure their performance against a fixed standard. They are designed to produce a “bell curve” distribution among examinees, with most scoring in the middle and with sharply descending numbers at the top and bottom. Test designers accomplish this, among other ways, by using plausible-sounding “distractors” to make multiple-choice items more difficult, requiring students to respond to a large number of items in a short space of time, and by dropping questions that too many students can answer correctly.

“Criterion-referenced” tests, on the other hand, measure how much students know about a given subject. Performance is not assessed in relation to how others perform but in relation to fixed academic standards. Assuming they have mastered the material, it is possible for a large proportion, even a majority, of examinees to score well; this is not possible on a norm-referenced test.

K-12 schools increasingly employ criterion-referenced tests for this reason. That approach reflects the movement during the past two decades in all of the states — those that have adopted their own standards, as well as those that have adopted the Common Core — to set explicit learning standards and assess achievement against them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/o...n-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

Didn't know they were revising the test yet again and now making writing optional.

I'm old so I only had verbal and math.

I've always felt the SAT itself was BS, even though I did well in it, in that it didn't really cover the subject matter you actually learned in school or would learn in college.

There is also a clear socio-economic advantage that correlates heavily with SAT scores--the higher the household median income, the higher the scores and vice versa--and the cottage industry of expensive prep classes.

I also didn't know that the writing exam rewarded verbosity. That's a terrible metric for effective writing. What was the College Board thinking?
 

entremet

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Amentallica

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General standardized tests should die. I'm studying for the GRE right now and I hate it. I'm already in graduate school for my MPA but I'm applying for a PhD program, many of which require the GRE, but not a subject GRE (psychology GRE). The latter I am okay with as that makes sense to me if I am applying to a psychology program, but the former? Come the fuck on, I think I display the aptitude if I graduate from a master's program.
 

entremet

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General standardized tests should die. I'm studying for the GRE right now and I hate it. I'm already in graduate school for my MPA but I'm applying for a PhD program, many of which require the GRE, but not a subject GRE (psychology GRE). The latter I am okay with as that makes sense to me if I am applying to a psychology program, but the former? Come the fuck on, I think I display the aptitude if I graduate from a master's program.

It's a racket, man. Such a scam.

I give these testing companies props for convincing colleges to adopt their nonsense.
 

Joni

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It will still emphasize speed — quick recall and time management — over subject knowledge. Despite evidence that writing is the single most important skill for success in college, the essay will be optional.
Good, because while writing is the most important skill for success in college, time management is the most important one for success in the workforce.
 

The Lamp

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The point is to rank students. It's to give admissions boards an idea of where a student stands in ranking compared to other students around the country, not just their school (which GPA displays).

It's kind of broken the way the SAT does it, though. Especially since I remember reading that SAT/ACT scores really don't correlate that well to success in or after college.

My SAT score was slightly above average, but still quite mediocre. Yet, this year I'm graduating with honors at a top university. I know people who had higher SAT scores than me that have not been able to accomplish what my peers and I have.

General standardized tests should die. I'm studying for the GRE right now and I hate it. I'm already in graduate school for my MPA but I'm applying for a PhD program, many of which require the GRE, but not a subject GRE (psychology GRE). The latter I am okay with as that makes sense to me if I am applying to a psychology program, but the former? Come the fuck on, I think I display the aptitude if I graduate from a master's program.

Standardized tests are extremely important, especially, for example, medical school.

A GPA only tells part of the picture. Medical admissions is extremely competitive, but how do you compare a student that made a 4.0 at University of Florida versus a student who made a 4.0 at Harvard? The fairest way would be to give them an exam that tests knowledge, and see how their scores compare to each other. That's what standardized testing does; compares all the students in a national applicant pool to each other based on a common pool of knowledge. A great MCAT score can offset a less-than-stellar GPA, but both together is an extremely effective combination. Meanwhile, a great GPA with a poor MCAT score signals an issue: you possibly don't know as much as your application advertises.

Also, the GRE is basically the SAT revisited. It's high-school level knowledge. It often doesn't even matter what you make on it, really. Schools just use it to make sure you have a pulse and can use a pencil.

General standardized tests should die. I'm studying for the GRE right now and I hate it. I'm already in graduate school for my MPA but I'm applying for a PhD program, many of which require the GRE, but not a subject GRE (psychology GRE). The latter I am okay with as that makes sense to me if I am applying to a psychology program, but the former? Come the fuck on, I think I display the aptitude if I graduate from a master's program.

How did your program NOT require the GRE for the MPA? Usually any kind of graduate/professional study in the US that isn't something unusual like fine arts or music requires a GRE or GMAT or LSAT or DAT or MCAT score.
 

DoktorEvil

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It's a racket, man. Such a scam.

I give these testing companies props for convincing colleges to adopt their nonsense.

I agree.

What's the alternative? Dept Of Ed. mandated testing?

CEEB controls a huge chunk of college admission standard in the US.

Think of a single test where you didn't have to pay a fee in order to sit.

Not to mention, the myriad of Test prep companies that allow students to game the system. It's dirty.
 

Amentallica

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The point is to rank students. It's to give admissions boards an idea of where a student stands in ranking compared to other students around the country, not just their school (which GPA displays).

It's kind of broken the way the SAT does it, though. Especially since I remember reading that SAT/ACT scores really don't correlate that well to success in or after college.

My SAT score was slightly above average, but still quite mediocre. Yet, this year I'm graduating with honors at a top university. I know people who had higher SAT scores than me that have not been able to accomplish what my peers and I have.



Standardized tests are extremely important, especially, for example, medical school.

A GPA only tells part of the picture. Medical admissions is extremely competitive, but how do you compare a student that made a 4.0 at University of Florida versus a student who made a 4.0 at Harvard? The fairest way would be to give them an exam that tests knowledge, and see how their scores compare to each other. That's what standardized testing does; compares all the students in a national applicant pool to each other based on a common pool of knowledge. A great MCAT score can offset a less-than-stellar GPA, but both together is an extremely effective combination. Meanwhile, a great GPA with a poor MCAT score signals an issue: you possibly don't know as much as your application advertises.

Also, the GRE is basically the SAT revisited. It's high-school level knowledge. It often doesn't even matter what you make on it, really. Schools just use it to make sure you have a pulse and can use a pencil.



How did your program NOT require the GRE for the MPA? Usually any kind of graduate/professional study in the US that isn't something unusual like fine arts or music requires a GRE or GMAT or LSAT or DAT or MCAT score.

I mentioned that specialized GRE exams make sense to me. I also understand if it's medical school or a program that combines all of the tested knowledge on a daily basis. But I do not agree with you in that general standardized tests are a good measure of a student's abilities, regardless of the grade of knowledge being tested. If the problem is that there are too many students who have comparably equal grades and experience, then there should be a more practical way of ranking them. But once again I mention the program as an important consideration because I understand that different programs should have different requirements, and if I was studying for the psychology GRE for the programs I intend to apply to rather than the regular GRE, then I'd also understand, but, alas, that is not the case.

Also, there are a slew of master's programs that do not require the GRE, many of which are quite specialized as well; however, an overwhelming majority of doctoral programs do require the GRE. I don't know why my program didn't require it, but I can tell you as a student of the program that a GRE requirement would not have been necessary.
 

I'm an expert

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SAT scores GAF, Post 'em.

750 Reading

2020 total

Never understood the switch to three scores. 1560 here. Princeton full ride. Making 7 figures now. I can essentially thank the SAT for the life I live. Such an easy test for such big reward. At least 20 years ago. Surprised to see schools shy away from it. How do they determine scholarships and financial aid packages then?
 

Patryn

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1340. Don't remember the breakdown.

I'm an old fogey who took it before you had to do the essay (so out of 1600).

I also did absolutely zero studying or prep for it.

Got a 32 on my ACT, however.
 

TomShoe

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1340. Don't remember the breakdown.

I'm an old fogey who took it before you had to do the essay (so out of 1600).

I also did absolutely zero studying or prep for it.

Got a 32 on my ACT, however.

SATs were easy, but I sucked at ACTs. Got a 26, dunno why. Obviously I never sent it to any college.
 

entremet

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Never understood the switch to three scores. 1560 here. Princeton full ride. Making 7 figures now. I can essentially thank the SAT for the life I live. Such an easy test for such big reward. At least 20 years ago. Surprised to see schools shy away from it. How do they determine scholarships and financial aid packages then?

They added writing. That was the last big change, hence the three scores.
 

I'm an expert

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They added writing. That was the last big change, hence the three scores.

Interesting. I think the GMAT did the same thing, but if I recall right those sections' scores aren't even used by most schools. Are humans looking at the writing portion?
 

TomShoe

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Interesting. I think the GMAT did the same thing, but if I recall right those sections' scores aren't even used by most schools. Are humans looking at the writing portion?

They are, but they probably don't do much more than glance at it, since they have to look at millions of them.

Longer Essays = Higher Scores.
 

kirblar

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800 Verbal, 760 Math. Saved my ass from my not-great grades, which unfortunately didn't help with the undiagnosed medical issue contributing to em.
 

theechrisfox

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Interesting. I think the GMAT did the same thing, but if I recall right those sections' scores aren't even used by most schools. Are humans looking at the writing portion?

Doubt it. The writing portion is just forwarded to schools that may wish to use it in their admissions procedure. Which is likely very few, because its not at all competitive right now for anyone to get into college.
 

Patryn

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So I'll just take the ACT

Some schools require one or the other.

I know that Michigan public universities used to require the ACT, but the contract recently switched to the SAT instead.

If you take both, they'll happily take both scores, but you do have to submit the required test score.
 

entremet

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They are, but they probably don't do much more than glance at it, since they have to look at millions of them.

Longer Essays = Higher Scores.

This is hilarious because verbosity is a handicap in the world of work.

Being concise rules the day.

However, verbosity is prized in college, so.
 

RevDM

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SAT is bullshit. Anyone serious enough about going to a good four year university can go to community college and transfer to one.
 

Laconic

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Interesting. I think the GMAT did the same thing, but if I recall right those sections' scores aren't even used by most schools. Are humans looking at the writing portion?

They are when it comes to the GRE.

I cannot believe they took out the logic section, and replaced it with a writing section scored by 3 "readers".

Oh wait, yes I can... it is a game, after all. Why score on something as immutable and irrefutable as logic, when you can simply force do-overs, and turn down grant applicants due to arbitrary scores?
 

The Albatross

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Never understood the switch to three scores. 1560 here. Princeton full ride. Making 7 figures now. I can essentially thank the SAT for the life I live. Such an easy test for such big reward. At least 20 years ago. Surprised to see schools shy away from it. How do they determine scholarships and financial aid packages then?

High school transcript more so than a single test.

Schools moved away from it because SAT scores were not indicative of a student's success beyond their first year.
 

Syncytia

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This is hilarious because verbosity is a handicap in the world of work.

Being concise rules the day.

However, verbosity is prized in college, so.

I think this is somewhat overplayed. In English maybe, but having both a science and liberal arts degree people tend to look for concise well defined writing. Verbosity has essentially become bullshitting in my experience. That said, there is still a level of eloquence required to become a good writer.
 

Machine

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High school transcript more so than a single test.

Schools moved away from it because SAT scores were not indicative of a student's success beyond their first year.

I'm beginning to question the high school transcript as an indicator as well. I know several people from high school whose GPAs and standardized test scores were substantially lower than mine yet they somehow managed to become successful engineers, attorneys, doctors, etc.
 

entremet

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I think this is somewhat overplayed. In English maybe, but having both a science and liberal arts degree people tend to look for concise well defined writing. Verbosity has essentially become bullshitting in my experience. That said, there is still a level of eloquence required to become a good writer.

You're correct. It depends on your instructors as well.
 

Epsilon-delta

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I'm beginning to question the high school transcript as an indicator as well. I know several people from high school whose GPAs and standardized test scores were substantially lower than mine yet they somehow managed to become successful engineers, attorneys, doctors, etc.

This holds true for me and plenty that I know of when I was in college .

I aced all my math and science classes when I was an engineering student (Calc 1-3, DE, Phy 1 & 2), before changing my major to nursing and graduating with a 4.0.

I have met quite a few engineering and pre-medical students who had low high-school GPAs that went on to graduating with honors or rocked a 35+ on the MCAT.

Standardized test scores or high-school GPAs can't predict someone's willingness to succeed at a university level.
 

Plinko

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As a teacher, I can't think of anything that means less than a standardized test. What a colossal waste of time and money.
 

The Albatross

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I'm beginning to question the high school transcript as an indicator as well. I know several people from high school whose GPAs and standardized test scores were substantially lower than mine yet they somehow managed to become successful engineers, attorneys, doctors, etc.

Yep, I'm certainly on this list. Really struggled in high school and went onto become a good student in college and successful after.

While there are always exceptions to every "rule" (and this isn't a rule at all), it's just generally considered by most colleges that a well rounded folder is more indicative of success throughout college than a test score.

If one doesn't learn how to manage their time in 4+ years of college, then they probably aren't graduating anyways.

This isn't true. Even up into grad school, students are given extension after extension whenever they ask for it.
 

The Lamp

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I mentioned that specialized GRE exams make sense to me. I also understand if it's medical school or a program that combines all of the tested knowledge on a daily basis. But I do not agree with you in that general standardized tests are a good measure of a student's abilities, regardless of the grade of knowledge being tested. If the problem is that there are too many students who have comparably equal grades and experience, then there should be a more practical way of ranking them. But once again I mention the program as an important consideration because I understand that different programs should have different requirements, and if I was studying for the psychology GRE for the programs I intend to apply to rather than the regular GRE, then I'd also understand, but, alas, that is not the case.

Also, there are a slew of master's programs that do not require the GRE, many of which are quite specialized as well; however, an overwhelming majority of doctoral programs do require the GRE. I don't know why my program didn't require it, but I can tell you as a student of the program that a GRE requirement would not have been necessary.

What practical alternative do you suggest? There's no way to objectively compare students from around the country to each other if not through a standard that everyone must complete.

While I admitted the SAT is a poor standardized test, when done properly with enough care to its design (like the MCAT), it's an extremely effective admissions tool.
 

Amentallica

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What practical alternative do you suggest? There's no way to objectively compare students from around the country to each other if not through a standard that everyone must complete.

While I admitted the SAT is a poor standardized test, when done properly with enough care to its design (like the MCAT), it's an extremely effective admissions tool.

I wouldn't know an alternative but I don't have to have one to know that things can always be done better. The MCAT is not an apt comparison because we both agree on that one due to how specialized it is and how most of its material should be known in medical school.

Standardized exams also give the impression that the tested material is all that's important to being successful in school when that's simply not the case. Individuals can be successful and excel in many other ways. I can't imagine how many incredibly intelligent and talented individuals are rejected because they're not as familiar with the material on paper but can actually apply the material to real life scenarios, or are too anxious at taking exams and blank out the day of, or are impoverished and only know what their substandard education has taught them.

We see this issue on this very forum with common core math. It may not be the best example, but it's what I think of when I think of individuals who are successful or are capable of being successful but don't even understand what the hell an 8th grader is doing in school in his or her math class because they were taught differently.
 
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