SAT gets harder

SAT scores fell this year because the revised test puts a premium on reading and high-level math writes David Kahn, an SAT tutor, in Opinion Journal.

. . . ETS has increased the penalty for not reading throughout one’s school years. Studying vocabulary lists before the test — a long-favored shortcut to lifting scores — just won’t cut it anymore. Students who read widely and often throughout their elementary and high-school years develop the kinds of reading skills measured by the new SAT. Students who avoid reading don’t — and can’t develop them in a cram course.

The new math section is harder because it includes pre-calculus questions.

The test is “biased against people who aren’t well-educated,” Kahn writes.

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  1. He’s wrong. The test is easier, not harder, and that’s my guess as to what’s causing the lower scores. There’s no precalculus on the test, and that was never where the difficulty lie, anyway.

  2. “Now there are also fewer math questions–each of which counts for more. The 54 math questions count for 11 points each now (on the 200 to 800 scale); before, there were 60 questions that counted for 10 each. So if a student gets 20 questions wrong, he effectively loses 222 points instead of the former 200.”

    The writer says if a student gets 20 questions wrong at 11 each, he effectively loses 222 points.

    For some reason I get 220 when I multiply 11 by 20.

  3. He wasn’t well educated. Doesn’t know math.

    Actually, that’s the only part of his piece that is correct. The lower scores–in all sections, not jsut math–are probably caused by the fact that there are fewer questions–most of which were harder questions. Testmakers assume (I suppose) that kids miss hard and easy questions in the same proportion. But that’s not always true.

    The rest of the piece is garbage, and he doesn’t even seem to understand how his one valid point annilhates the rest of his contentions.

  4. Based on the argument and evidence in new book by E.D. Hirsch, THE KNOWLEDGE DEFICIT, I suspect that the reason long-time readers do better than vocabulary crammers is not that they have better “reading skills” but that they know more, and hence comprehend more.

  5. Nels Nelson says:

    According to the article, each question is worth 600/54 points; 11 is just rounded, to make things more readable. 20*600/54 = 222.

  6. The test is “biased against people who aren’t well-educated,” Kahn writes.

    Would it still be a test if it weren’t biased against people who aren’t well-educated?

  7. Janis Gore says:

    Precalculus is trigonometry, and I blew a fair hundred points on the SAT in 1973 for not taking the course.

    Set theory won’t get you through calculus, unless you’re smarter than I am. I don’t deny that’s a good possbility.

  8. Wayne Martin says:

    > Precalculus is trigonometry

    Majoring in science and math in college, trigonometry turned out to be one of the most useful courses I took in high school. I don’t remember the Math Department of my high school making that clear to us as we were considering options for junior/senior course selections, though.

  9. When I took the SAT, I recall thinking that the math was too easy and hadn’t tested anything that I’d taken in the last several years (I took calculus my junior year in HS).  I flew through the math section and handed in my answer sheet after perhaps an hour; that must be why.

    I’m glad to see that the SAT is finally catching up to the more advanced coursework.

  10. Um, which part of “there’s no precalculus on the test” didn’t get through? The op-ed writer is wrong. Full stop. There’s no trig on the test. The SAT is not catching up with advanced coursework.

    The only math facts added to the test were: midpoint, distance formula, radius drawn to the point of tangency, and basic–very basic–functions notation (whereas before it just used symbol questions). Most of the difficult questions are the same as they’ve always been–properties, conceptual coordinate geometry, or very tricky (but first year) algebra. The College Board changed the test per the UC specs, and UC requested only that second year algebra questions be added.

    Rumor has it that UC was very upset by the relative ease of the math test and had intended a more difficult test, especially after having knocked the Math Ic test off their list of requirements. But it should have foreseen that as a problem, given that it also demanded that the test be given at one sitting (a largely bogus requirement given to help the College Board recoup the cost of the changes, I suspect).

    I have seen any number of actual SAT tests from the past year. It doesn’t test trig. It doesn’t come even near testing trig.

    The ACT tests only the trig facts learned in geometry–SOHCAHTOA, and nothing more. The SAT doesn’t do that much.

    “I blew a fair hundred points on the SAT in 1973 for not taking the course.”

    I very much doubt this. I won’t swear to it, but I’m reasonably certain the SAT has never tested trig. You are probably thinking of the SAT Math Ic, which was required for UC admissions.

  11. “I blew a fair hundred points on the SAT in 1973 for not taking the course.”

    I do not understand this either. This is certainly not SAT Reasoning Test. So it may be SAT Subject Test. However, according to Wiki the Subject Test/SAT II was called Achievement Test before 1994.

  12. Janis Gore says:

    It was a long time ago.

  13. That explains your memory being off. But the test wasn’t covering trig.