The New York Times Magazine has published a great behind-the-scenes feature about the new SAT changes, which includes the clearest look yet at what a question may look like on the test.
The reformatted college admissions exam was announced Wednesday by College Board President David Coleman. Among other major changes, the new SAT will shift towards asking test-takers more practical questions, rather than quizzing them on obscure vocabulary words.
While there have not been any official new questions released by College Board, Coleman walked The Times through what he described as a “simplistic example of the kind of question that might be on this part of the exam.” Here’s how described a potential question in the reading section of the new SAT:
Students would read an excerpt from a 1974 speech by Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas, in which she said the impeachment of Nixon would divide people into two parties. Students would then answer a question like: “What does Jordan mean by the word ‘party’?” and would select from several possible choices. This sort of vocabulary question would replace the more esoteric version on the current SAT…
The Barbara Jordan vocabulary question would have a follow-up — “How do you know your answer is correct?” — to which students would respond by identifying lines in the passage that supported their answer. (By 2016, there will be a computerized version of the SAT, and students may someday search the text and highlight the lines on the screen.) Students will also be asked to examine both text and data, including identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two.
This line of questioning seems to be in keeping with the new SAT’s goal of assessing students on subjects they encounter in the classroom. Coleman also expanded on how the exam is changing the focus of their vocabulary testing, according to The Times:
The idea is that the test will emphasise words students should be encountering, like “synthesis,” which can have several meanings depending on their context. Instead of encouraging students to memorize flashcards, the test should promote the idea that they must read widely throughout their high-school years.
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