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What Are The Real Challenges Of The New SAT?

By Linda Correli

The Scholastic Aptitude Test is one of the most widely-taken admission tests in America. The SAT evidently has become synonymous to the college application process. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the most accurate evaluating indicators of applicants college success.

The SAT gained amazing popularity among educational institutions, which are more likely to accept the SAT, rather than any other college testing programs.

Whereas, for students the SAT is the most important test they have to take in their life. Thus, when the matter concerns college admissions and awarding scholarship, no exam is more crucial and responsible.

That's why, the recent innovation, introduced by the College Board, which administers the SAT, became the most controversial and nerve-racking focal point for college-bound students. Indeed, it wasn't the bolt from the blue, because educators and learners have been waiting for some changes to come since June 2002, when the College Board announced a series of changes to the SAT that were implemented only in March 2005.

New SAT - New Challenges

The new SAT Reasoning Test was taken equivocally, to some extent, because of its complexity.

The new SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long, and scored on a 600-2400 scale. Besides, adding the questions from the allegebra-II to math section, and changing verbal analogies and quantitative comparisons into critical reading. The SAT introduced the drastic change, which became a real challenge for the majority of high school students. For the first time it will require students to compose a timed essay.

The 25-minute essay, asking a "philosophical questions, aims at evaluating how well students can communicate on paper and support their point of view. This section will produce a separate score on the 200-800 scale, where the essay will count only for 30 percent of the writing score, with 49 multiple-choice grammar questions. The mutiple questions will ask students to identify errors, and to improve the sentences and paragraphs.

On the one hand, this sweeping change in the approach to assessment students writing skills is well-grounded by the employers demand in people with good research, organizational and referencing writing skills. It is not a secret for anyone that nowadays good writing skills are not a privilege of the writers, but an essential skill for the many. Hence, writing extends beyond the walls of the education system into students later life.

Gaston Carper, the new ambitious head of the College Board, claimed in response to numerous questions as per the reason of this vital alteration, "We were hearing from schools across the country, from employers all across the country: Young people are getting out of college not able to write, entering college, where writing is much more in demand."

Thus, on the other hand this novelty put a new heavy burden on kids, who have to place more emphasize on their writing skills. Moreover, parents of some high school students cannot afford to pay for expensive preparation classes. Hence, students, having some difficulties with writing, are deprived of the opportunity to cope with the test successfully, therefore, to receive college education. It can be interpreted as discrimination for those, who cannot set out their thoughts coherently and articulately on paper, thus, are pretty good at math, and can come through critical reading with flying colors.

One more challenge for the students to face is critical reading. This is the new name for what is used to be called the verbal portion of the test, but there will be some changes. The vocabulary is de-emphasized with the end of analogies, and comprehension questions are introduced on shorter passages, or pairs of short passages, besides the traditional longer ones.

Some words are to be said about the alterations, introduced to the math section. There is a handful of high-level algebra II questions, where the special accent is made on graphs and interpreting visual data. Apparently, it won't be a piece of the cake for anyone.

"Overall, the changes have brought praise from some, who say the new test is more relevant to what students need to know for college. But there are also concerns they will more negatively affect students from weaker schools, and that the essay makes this test more cashable."

Meanwhile, the changes to the SAT "go through a special lens of evaluation", and really create much confusion. Students will have to make additional preparation, beyond the regular course work, seeking for preparation courses, which offer tutoring on weak subjects, provide an opportunity to take practice tests, and emphasize the fundamentals of good essay writing.

About The Author
Linda Correli is an author of the popular online tutorial for students "What Teachers Want: Master the Art of Essay Writing in 10 Days", available at

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