A piece in “The New York Times” by Anemona Hartocollis entitled “New, Reading-Heavy SAT Has Students Worried” highlights the changes that The College Board has made to the SAT, changes that — arguably — mark the largest overhaul of the exam in its history (some will surely beg to differ). As the title of the piece in “The New York Times” implies, the test is more reading-heavy, although the folks at College Board will challenge this claim.
In fact, according to Ms. Hartocollis’ reporting for “The New York Times,” “The College Board said that the number of words in the reading section had remained the same — about 3,250 on the new test, and 3,300 on the old one — and that the percentage of word problems in the math sections of the old and the new test was roughly the same, about 30 percent.” So what’s all the fuss, you ask? What The College Board isn’t advertising, but as Ms. Hartocollis accurately reports, “The way the words are presented makes a difference. For instance, short sentence-completion questions, which tested logic and vocabulary, have been eliminated in favor of longer reading passages, from literary sources like ‘Ethan Frome’ and ‘Moby-Dick,’ or political ones, like John Locke’s ideas about consent of the governed. These contain sophisticated words and thoughts in sometimes ornate diction.”
SAT vs. ACT is like Red Sox vs. Yankees. And while neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees were too hot last year, the SAT has lost marketshare to the ACT in recent years. Maybe the new SAT is College Board’s way of catching up.
There are some, many in fact, who argue that the new SAT — being as it’s wordier — will further discriminate against folks who can’t read as well as others — like international students or disadvantaged students. There’s even the line in the piece in “The New York Times” that it’ll only further help “the rich get richer.” And of course this counters the objectives of College Board. But were they ever really going to make everyone happy? SAT has lost significant marketshare to ACT. Maybe it was a case of go big or go home. Or maybe they just wanted to keep up with the changing times, like Apple always does.