The SAT's are being revamped.
May 2, 2002 11:37 PM   Subscribe

The SAT's are being revamped. (NY Times link)
posted by BlueTrain (14 comments total)
The inclusion of a hand-written essay is to be applauded. It can tell you a lot about someone's ability and personality and will allow more expressive candidates to make up for shortcomings elsewhere. It also adds a personal dimension to the whole rigmarole. I imagine it'll mean a lot more work for examiners, but I'd say it was worth it.

I'd like to know what sort of scoring weight is given to the essay, if anyone knows.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:52 AM on May 3, 2002

yes but what if yur handwritting sux
posted by rory at 3:45 AM on May 3, 2002's been a while since I took the SAT, but I seem to remember handing in an essay. How is this different?
posted by Su at 3:52 AM on May 3, 2002

Well, your essay-delusions have gotten worse...
posted by techgnollogic at 5:06 AM on May 3, 2002

As long as this revamp ends up adding another 60 points to my pre-revamp score---like the last one did, and wow I suddenly feel old---I'm happy.

Scholarship to M.I.T., here I come!
posted by Sapphireblue at 5:41 AM on May 3, 2002

I took the SATs in '97, and there wasn't an essay in the format back then. TOEFL did have an essay.
posted by riffola at 5:42 AM on May 3, 2002

Actually I only took one SAT test, a couple of SAT II tests (Physics, Math, etc), and TOEFL.
posted by riffola at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2002

The SAT Writing Test is, of course, in essay form.

My grandfather, who was Professor of Math and Education (complete phrase, not one or the other) at the University of Chicago, and wrote math education books for Scott-Foresman, was involved in early SAT efficacy studies. (A bit of SAT history.) Still, it was pretty clear by the time I took it that it was a very limited metric. Student and family objections were already having an effect on the colleges, and today the SAT is not going to be anything more than just one of many considerations an admissions committee will examine.

I don't know how much more effective this might make the test for those purposes -- most colleges already require that you write an essay for them. If they're going to adjust the overall SAT score, or add a separate one for writing ability, they're going to have to prove it to the colleges (who are, after all, the actual consumers of the data, and decide whether to require certain scores, or to require the test at all). At some level this is really a marketing move by ETS to keep relevance while they perceive their product becoming less important.

Su, riffola: just as Amazon might experiment with different prices for different people, or the IRS conducts 'lifestyle audits' in order to verify statistical soundness of its estimates of fraud, a certain number of SATs will include test questions which they can then compare, statistically, with the remainder of the proven test. It may be that you were a 'beta' victim.

Here's a little more on California's objections and specific desired improvements. Basically, they threatened ETS with dropping their product completely -- over 3% of their market (50,000 out of 1.5M test-takers).
posted by dhartung at 6:46 AM on May 3, 2002

The reason this is stupid is that it is handled by the SAT II writing test. This merely increases the importance of school quality in the SATs, which really isn't something we need to do. Granted, this may be sour grapes on my part; I got an 800 Verbal score on the SATs, and only a 760 on the SAT II Writing. But this still seems -- off. This one test is supposed to be about apptitude, not achievment. Why not keep it that way? It still makes sense as a part of a holistic evaluation of the student.

And dude, they're trashing the analogies! Those were the best part!
posted by Ptrin at 8:49 AM on May 3, 2002

As someone who worked for ETS last month grading hundreds of essays for the California Achievements, the inclusion of the essays will make the test more coachable for those who can afford coaching, more expensive to grade, more likely to be biased based on country of origin, and no more effective at figuring out who is a good candidate for college.
posted by jessamyn at 11:00 AM on May 3, 2002

jessamyn: How does the inclusion of a writing test make the SAT more coachable? You can't very well cram-coach people in style, or putting a sentence together in an interesting way. Word recognition always seemed to me to be rather pointless and cheesy. Anyway, is the college board grading by content analysis, what? (Content analysis-type grading of essays is much cheesier than any word recognition-oriented question, I think.)
posted by raysmj at 11:39 AM on May 3, 2002

The tests are scored by people in their living rooms who are not necessarily giving the essays a close read. While I know this horrifies some people, each essay on the CAHSEE was given less than two minutes of reader time by each of two readers. In fact, we were threatened with firing if we didn't read more than 25 essays an hour.

With this in mind, the three most important things are: legible handwriting, clear organizational style [indented paragraphs, five paragraphs, title of article in quotes or underlines] and a close read of the questions being asked and answering it completely. I used to work for Princeton Review and it was scary to see some of the essays I read following, to the letter, the advice we gave kids ["memorize a couple of all purpose quatations that you can throw into just about any essay, use it and use it accurately"].

The essays on the CAHSEE weren't really about style, they were about being able to follow directions [as is most of high school, really] and coaching means that people will understand what the graders are looking for in general already so they can spend all their brain time answering the specifics of the question. The GRE essay, from what I've heard, is more thorough in this regard and there is more of a focus on content, but for high school kids, it's really about being organized [we are supposed to "grade supportively" w/r/t language use and actual factual information] and clear, not smart and/or creative.
posted by jessamyn at 1:08 PM on May 3, 2002

I really don't see how this will help the SAT I (which is tomorrow morning) at all. I think it was said before but the SAT II covers writing and any extra that the colleges want.

Also, the AP English exam (which is monday) could be used if the college really, really needed more things to grade on. Of course the AP is somewhat diluted by the fact that better schools offer AP courses which basically teach to the test.

The problem with all these tests is that one could raise his or her score considerably by going to expensive boot camp like training sessions. Most people can't afford to spend $5,000 to get a 750 on the Verbal and Math. Luckily, colleges take a parent's income into consideration.
posted by geoff. at 2:04 PM on May 3, 2002

jessamyn: As someone who worked for ETS last month grading hundreds of essays, all those kids' dangling modifiers seem to have rubbed off... (Happens to me too.)
posted by Zurishaddai at 4:16 PM on May 3, 2002

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