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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the abba-cadaba dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to the NY Times, 'Saying its college admission exams do not focus enough on the important academic skills, the College Board announced on Wednesday a fundamental rethinking of the SAT, eliminating obligatory essays, ending the longstanding penalty for guessing wrong and cutting obscure vocabulary words. ... The SAT's rarefied vocabulary words will be replaced by words that are common in college courses, such as "empirical" and "synthesis." The math questions, now scattered widely across many topics, will focus more narrowly on linear equations, functions and proportional thinking. The use of a calculator will no longer be allowed on some of the math sections.' The College Board will also be working with Khan Academy to provide students with free, online practice problems and instructional videos. The new version of the SAT will be introduced in 2016."
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College Board To Rethink the SAT, Partner With Khan Academy

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  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday March 05, 2014 @10:06PM (#46415261)

    The goal of the SAT used to be to predict performance in college. Now it is used to predict how much effort one is willing to put into it to game the system.

    Well, it's always been about trying to predict college performance. Back in the late 60s through early 90s, it was a stable test format, normed rigorously through decades of testing, which was basically an IQ test and advanced reading comprehension test. Things like analogies and vocab testing both how well-read you were and your abstract ability to connect subtleties of meaning; things like quantitative comparisons tested logic and reasoning skills outside of normal basic math.

    Then it was renormed in the mid 90s to make it about 100 points easier -- it no longer really could distinguish the top of the scale (which, if you look at the stats, appeared to be disappearing -- the actual number of perfect 1600s went down significantly in the 80s despite increases in number of test takers). The high-level critical reasoning was less stressed in many college programs too.

    Gradually, over the past couple decades, the test has been further dumbed down, to service the increasing number of people who want to go to college and the decreasing number of people with high-level literacy and advanced critical reasoning. Analogies and quantitative comparisons disappeared. They added a writing test, but studies showed that the easiest way to get a high score was to write a longer essay, not actually have a stronger argument (at least not above some really basic level).

    Increasingly, the test rewarded preparation instead of things harder to teach in some sort of crash prep course, like abstract reasoning.

    The latest revisions just follow further in the efforts to service large number of unprepared people who want to attend college. Nobody reads at a high level anymore, so why bother with vocabulary beyond the basics? The test is aiming to be relevant for the average person, which is not where it started -- as an IQ test for the elite. At this point, it's not any better than high school grades for predicting college performance (and actually worse for people with high SAT scores but low GPAs, since it then basically is testing prep skills access to fancy crash courses, rather than higher-level reasoning). So they're basically turning it into a glorified set of midterm high school exams.

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