Prepare for new SAT, digital ACT

College admissions tests are changing, reports the New York Times.

Say farewell to vocabulary flashcards with arcane words like “compendious,” “membranous,” “mendacious,” “pugnacious,” “depreciatory,” “redolent,” “treacly” and “jettison.” In the new SAT, to be unveiled in 2015, David Coleman, president of the College Board, wants to get rid of obscure words that are . . . just SAT words, and replace them with more common words like “synthesis,” “distill” and “transform,” used in context as they will be in college and in life.

And the math? “There are a few things that matter disproportionately, like proportional reasoning, linear equations and linear functions,” Mr. Coleman said. “Those are the kinds of things we’re going to concentrate on.”

“And it shouldn’t just be about picking the right answer,” he said. “It should be about being able to explain, and see, the applications of this math.”

Coleman, a principal architect of Common Core standards, wants the SAT to align with what students learn in high school instead of trying to measure “aptitude.”

The ACT, which already is more curriculum-based, will be given on computers and will include “more creative, hands-on questions,” the Times reports. In addition, ACT will offer yearly testing as early as third grade to “help guide students to college readiness.”

Coleman plans to change grading for the SAT essay, which lets students “get top marks for declaring that the Declaration of Independence was written by Justin Bieber and sparked the French Revolution, as long as the essay is well organized and develops a point of view.”

 “We should not be encouraging students to make up the facts,” Mr. Coleman said. “We should be asking them to construct an argument supported by their best evidence.”

Over and over, Mr. Coleman returns to the need to prod students into marshaling their evidence. “The heart of the revised SAT will be analyzing evidence,” he said. “The College Board is reaching out to teachers and college faculty to help us design questions that, for example, could ask students to use math to analyze the data in an economics study or the results of a scientific experiment, or analyze the evidence provided within texts in literature, history, geography or natural science.”

In 2005, the SAT dropped analogies and added more advanced math. However, the test is losing market share to the ACT, which last year was taken by more students.

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Comments

  1. Ann in L.A. says:

    “jettison” is an arcane word?

  2. I don’t remember seeing compendious in use. I not uncommonly use, and encounter in books/online sources, the words mendacious, pugnacious, depreciatory, redolent, treacly and jettison and also use/encounter membranous occasionally. Enlarging student vocabularies, through high-quality fiction and non-fiction (all disciplines), should be demanded. If those words are too arcane for college-bound students, then (1) k-12 texts/instruction have been insufficient and/or (2) too many kids are intending to attend college. My opinion is both of the above. The SAT has already been dumbed down twice; by removing the analogies and by “recentering”.

    • None of those words seem particularly abstruse. They’re probably hoping to hide a third dumbing down – talk about obfuscation! For arcane word of the day – I nominate dweomercrafter.

      Regarding the math: Emphasis on proportional reasoning, linear equations and functions? I’ll wait to see the new stuff, but that’s really the domain of Algebra I. Analyzing evidence to reach conclusions is a good idea. When I was teaching, it wasn’t easy to do; hard to tell if the kid couldn’t do the math or couldn’t understand the question. Lots of places for things to go wrong. Sounds like one more way to weaken the “math” portion of the exam.

  3. Cranberry says:

    “…and replace them with more common words like “synthesis,” “distill” and “transform,” used in context as they will be in college and in life.”

    So, middle school vocabulary will be the end and goal of the SAT. Got it. The SAT will be useless for any college with anything but open admissions.

    I wonder what will take its place? Will we go full circle? I predict, if such changes take place, each elite college’s supplements to the Common App will become effectively independent entrance exams. The admissions interview could easily grow to become an oral exam. That will be unfair to the bright students from rural and inner-city backgrounds, for whom the SAT has historically functioned as a Great Leveler, opening doors to them which had been closed.

  4. “compendious,” “membranous,” “mendacious,” “pugnacious,” “depreciatory,” “redolent,” “treacly” and “jettison.” In the new SAT, to be unveiled in 2015, David Coleman, president of the College Board, wants to get rid of obscure words that are . . . just SAT words, and replace them with more common words like “synthesis,” “distill” and “transform,” used in context as they will be in college and in life.

    How exactly did this guy become president of the College Board and an architect of Common Core?