Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Big Change In This Year's S.A.T.

For the past 67 years, college-bound high school students have had to take the SAT as a rite of passage. Except for a little tweaking here and there, it's been the same test for all that time.

The Washington Post is reporting that there is to be a big change in this year's administration of the test.

For the first time in its long history, there is to be a major change in the format of the SAT, the addition of an timed essay component. In addition to reading and math, students will be writing an essay. They will be given 25 minutes to write the essay.

What we like about the change:

  • Students will be writing their essays under controlled testing conditions. This will be a much more accurate rendering of the student's writing ability than those essays (often written by professional ghosts) that are submitted as part of many university's application packet.
  • An essay gives some indication of a given student's overall organizational skills.
  • Because it is a timed response, the essay affords any given student the opportunity to demonstrate what he or she can do under pressure.

What we don't like about the change:

  • The WaPo article states that scorers will be expected to read an average of 220 essays in eight to ten hours. If use a figure of 9 hours per session, then that would mean that each scorer would be expected to run-through 24.4 essays per hour. This would mean that each would receive only 2.45 minutes each. (And this doesn't take into account bathroom breaks, paper shuffling, scorer chit-chat Etc.) Considering the importance of this test, that is not much time for a scorer to assign a well-reasoned grade.
  • Even though scorers will use a "holistic scoring" rubric to assist them, there is always a certain amount of subjectivity when grading any essay. The whole point behind the S.A.T. was to have all students take the same test, in order that each may be assigned an objective grade.
  • At times scorers may not like a given writer's viewpoint, thus calling the scorers objectivity into question.

While on the whole we like the idea of an essay component to the S.A.T. test, we believe that there are many areas of concern that need to be addressed before the essay portion of the test should be implemented.

We think that the folks over at College Board (who own the test) needed to do a little more "field testing" of this examination before subjecting our children to it this March 12th.

Tipped by: Nigel of Kiwi Pundit.

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