June 28, 2002

College Board revises SAT test

The College Board's Trustees voted unanimously yesterday to dramatically alter the SAT I in order to make it reflect more of what students have learned. The new changes, which will be unveiled in March 2005, mark the second time in the past decade the College Board has significantly revised the test.

"The current SAT I is the most rigorously and well-researched test in the world, and the new SAT I will only improve the test's current strengths by placing the highest possible emphasis on the most important college success skills - reading and mathematics, and, now, writing," said College Board President Gaston Caperton.

The maximum score will increase from 1,600 to 2,400 points with the addition of a new writing section with multiple-choice grammar questions and an essay, in effect combining the SAT II Writing test with the original.

"The SAT II: Writing Test has given us the basis for now developing a new SAT I writing component," Caperton said.

The verbal component, renamed the Critical Reading Exam, will replace analogies with short reading passages. According to the College Board, this reflects teachers' preferences for context-rich instruction. Analogies, they say, are rarely taught in school and students often need to familiarize themselves with them prior to taking the test.

Changes will also be made to the math section. Since the College Board found that 97 percent of all college-bound seniors take math courses up to Algebra II, problems in the new math section will incorporate those skills, such as matrices, absolute value, rational equations and inequalities, radical equations, and geometric notation. Quantitative comparisons, or questions that ask students to determine the relationship between quantities in two separate columns, will disappear from the math section, since, according to the College Board, they place students who have not had special instruction in these comparisons at a disadvantage.

The new section will add 25 minutes to the testing time and $10-12 to the cost of the exam, which this fall is $26.

The SAT was changed in 1994 when antonyms were eliminated, the verbal section was narrowed to emphasize reading skills, and the subject matter was updated to reflect the cultural diversity of the nation. Non-multiple choice questions were introduced to the exam, and calculators were permitted for the first time.

The following year the test was recentered to move the average scores on the reading and math sections closer to 500.

In 2001, 2.3 million students took the SAT, averaging scores of 506 on the verbal section and 514 on the math component.