New education plan: Take the “tricky vocabulary” out of the SAT exam

posted at 8:01 am on March 7, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Global observers have been sounding the klaxons for some time now when it comes to the American education system. We’re falling behind all of the smart countries, slowly sinking into a comfortable swamp populated by obese couch potatoes who gaze into their smart phone screens with glazed over eyes. The kids simply aren’t doing well enough on the SATs and the future looks dismal indeed.

But this is ‘MERICA, people! We’re not going to take this lying down! If our kids aren’t doing well enough on the standardized tests, there’s a clear solution. We’ll make the tests easier.

The organization that administers the SAT college entrance exam is adopting some big changes including a new scoring system, an optional essay and getting rid of hard vocabulary.

The College Board, which runs the widely used academic skills test, is changing the scoring system from a 2,400 point max back to the 1,600 points that it once used.

The SAT will continue to test reading, writing and math skills, but the essay portion will be optional. And difficult vocabulary will be replaced with words that students are more likely to use in college or in the workplace.

Somewhere out there, William F. Buckley is rolling over in his grave. But with that, pull up a chair, pour yourself a strong one, sit back and prepare for another installment in our ongoing series, “Jazz Shaw: My Lawn and You Getting Off of It.

Most of these changes simply make no sense. I’m not sure why they’re going back to a 1600 point system – which shouldn’t matter a bit – but then again, I don’t know why we changed it in the first place. But the essay is optional? I assume that’s just to help people score better if they’re … bad at writing? And by all means, let’s get rid of all the “hard words” because, really… who needs a powerful vocabulary in an age when Bazinga is in the Merriam Webster Dictionary?

But all of this might still leave the test a bit too difficult for today’s teens. Got anything else for us?

Another change will include granting students credit for guessing. Currently, points are deducted for incorrect answers.

Ooooookay. I think we can pretty much turn the lights out with that one. I took the SATs back in the 70′s when the maximum score was still 1600. To put it mildly, I was not exactly a rocket scientist. I managed to break 1340 which wasn’t terrible, but my cousin Rick has already scored 1580 the year before, so any chance at wide approbation among the family was pretty much out the window. But the point is that the test was hard. Everyone in school was sweating it out, and the ones who cared at all worked their butts off preparing for it.

Now we’re going to award points for guessing. Welcome to the new America.


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Dumbing it down for Communist Core of course.

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:06 AM

…dumb them down further!…they dems need a bigger base!

KOOLAID2 on March 7, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Sigh.

DisneyFan on March 7, 2014 at 8:09 AM

…dumb them down further!…they dems need a bigger base!

KOOLAID2 on March 7, 2014 at 8:08 AM

If that happens, won’t that cause North America to capsize?

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:09 AM

iirc I was also 1340.
math killed me, comprehension stuff I did well on.
took asvabs right after, was 98% or so.

dmacleo on March 7, 2014 at 8:12 AM

The ACT already allows you to guess so it isn’t that big of a change for the SAT. Just means an incorrect answer wont deduct from your score. That is good news for those who can narrow down the choices to 2 potentially right answers. Cutting hard vocabulary is very stupid though. Sharp language skills are key to reading which is indispensable when learning.

Imrahil on March 7, 2014 at 8:13 AM

I’m with Jonah Goldberg on this. Drop the SAT; replace it with Kobayashi Maru.

apostic on March 7, 2014 at 8:14 AM

And difficult vocabulary will be replaced with words that students are more likely to use in college or in the workplace.

Does this include cursing?

kcewa on March 7, 2014 at 8:18 AM

I dunno. I never the SAT or ACT, yet got a BA. I attended schools near or on military bases when on active duty. Part of Uncle Sam’s push was to get as many people a degree as wanted one.

307wolverine on March 7, 2014 at 8:19 AM

If expectations are too high, just lower them.

That is the true key to success.

I mean, if you are of the left that is.

Gatsu on March 7, 2014 at 8:21 AM

And by all means, let’s get rid of all the “hard words” because, really… who needs a powerful vocabulary in an age when Bazinga is in the Merriam Webster Dictionary?

In an age where Shakespeare is written- 2B r nt 2B, it isn’t hard words that are being banned, it is the basic abilty to speak and write English that used to be a mark of an educated individual.

Hard not to understand why English is being banned with a drooling rat-eared idiot in the White House who thinks Austrians speak Austrian and the Maldives are a point of dispute between the UK and Argentina. English is a casualty of such stupidity.

Happy Nomad on March 7, 2014 at 8:22 AM

Now we’re going to award points for guessing. Welcome to the new Americ

How does one even tally that?

I mean, say you get half credit for every guess, why not guess the whole thing, attempt to write an essay, and score better than half by simply throwing things at the wall?

So stupid…

Gatsu on March 7, 2014 at 8:24 AM

The kids simply aren’t doing well enough on the SATs and the future looks dismal indeed.

Meh. Barky didn’t crack 920 on his SATs yet he went on to get into one Ivy League school after another, was made Precedent of the Hah-vahd Lawn Review (without even having any skills in English, or law, to speak of, and ended up being made tyrant of the late United States. Evidently, doing well on the SATs is seriously overrated. Just grow up in a third world sh!thole as a little muslim kid, eat some dog, hate some America, have the mind of amoeba and, so long as your skin is the appropriate hue, you’re good to go to take apart the greatest nation that ever existed.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

Removing old and obscure words that no one ever uses with more relevant words is not a bad thing. language constantly changes, whats the point in making kids learn some words which they’ll only see on the SAT and never anywhere else, ever? It would make more sense to include a section on foreign vocabulary or Latin. (and Latin because a lot of our legal words and medical words come from Latin)

louieny on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t being done primarily to increase the scores of minority students. As I recall, one of the biggest comparative differences between standardized test scores in the USA and other countries is that the USA falls behind due to lower scores from much of the minority population (Asians are the exception).

Changing the reading comprehension portion of the test and removing the essay portion may be a subtle way to try and goose those scores.

Revenant on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

And difficult vocabulary will be replaced with words that students are more likely to use in college or in the workplace.

I wonder if they are going to put “ebonics” in the vocabulary, both to help “Obama’s sons and daughters” and to put actual English speakers at a disadvantage?

These changes:


That’s retarded Sir.

-Rachel Jenteal

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

colleges are dropping the SAT/ACT requirements and/or dismissing their import….they need warm bodies in their freshmen classes to pay the high tuition…if the kids make it they make it in college…if they don’t they didn’t want to work it in the first place.there’s always a major you can handle. and yes, you are better off having gone to college even if you end up being a carpenter, plumber, electrician or mechanic to earn a good living and have a happy life.

gracie on March 7, 2014 at 8:26 AM

In ’76 I had the third highest score nationally, 1593 IIRC.

Somehow, that seems a lot less impressive now that “everybody gets a prize” has become the SOP for SAT as it is with everything else in the public schools.

clear ether

eon

eon on March 7, 2014 at 8:26 AM

Because, like, basically, like, I was, like literally struggling to, like, understand what the words basically, like meant and stuff. Know what I’m sayin’?

Galtian on March 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM

The SAT should be smoking a doob while playing X-Box.

forest on March 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Meh. Barky didn’t crack 920 on his SATs yet he went on to get into one Ivy League school after another, was made Precedent of the Hah-vahd Lawn Review (without even having any skills in English, or law, to speak of, and ended up being made tyrant of the late United States. Evidently, doing well on the SATs is seriously overrated. Just grow up in a third world sh!thole as a little muslim kid, eat some dog, hate some America, have the mind of amoeba and, so long as your skin is the appropriate hue, you’re good to go to take apart the greatest nation that ever existed.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

I certainly don’t and never did buy into the meme that Obama is a “genius”, is the “smartest man in any room”.

Obama wouldn’t be the smartest life form in a room full of random furry animals.

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:27 AM

Follow the money and whose making it. The SAT is a total racket.

monalisa on March 7, 2014 at 8:28 AM

I’m not surprised they are removing “hard” words. They already removed analogies. Those weren’t fair because they required the student to know the meanings of four words. Even worse, the student needed to be able to relate those meanings to one another. Because we all know that the ability to analogize is completely useless in today’s society.

This won’t make any difference. The kids they are trying to protect have such rudimentary skills that they will continue to score poorly. What you will have, however, is grade inflation at the top. The assertion that the top scores result only from expensive training courses is false. We never spent a dime for either of our kids, other than buying an SAT prep book. They took sample tests. Both scored over 2300 on the test. Their ACTs were 34 and 36.

I scored 1480 in the early 1970s. I never cracked a book, but I did take the sample test. But I was pretty good at math and I read voraciously, giving me a good vocabulary.

35tww on March 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM

God forbid the kiddies should have a firm basis in, and understanding of, our language through the exposure to great literature – which uses quite a bit of “tricky vocabulary”, thank the Lord.

khacha on March 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM

I dunno. I never the SAT or ACT, yet got a BA. I attended schools near or on military bases when on active duty. Part of Uncle Sam’s push was to get as many people a degree as wanted one.

307wolverine on March 7, 2014 at 8:19 AM

Think about it this way. Military education programs are a different demographic than schools attempting to sort out a gaggle of high schoolers all of whom have very similar qualifications.

But really, the problem is with their entire education not a single aptitude test. Something like 15% of all freshmen at a 4-year public school has to take remedial courses in college just to learn the stuff they supposedly mastered before leaving high school. That number goes up to 27% for freshmen at a 2-year public school (i.e. community college).

I would argue two points. First, not everybody is/should be on the college-track. Our public schools are based on the idea that EVERYBODY should go to college lest they end up working for an “employer of last resort” like the military (that according to John Kerry among others). Secondly, we’re failing our kids by not ensuring that they know the “hard words” and how to write a basic five-paragraph essay before ever graduating from high school.

Happy Nomad on March 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM

I managed to break 1340 which wasn’t terrible

1340 “wasn’t terrible”? I scored 1380 at about the same time and my counselor told me it was third highest in my class.

Thanks for taking me down a notch.

Bat Chain Puller on March 7, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Normally, I’d agree, but as someone who took the SAT many years ago and has recently coached two kids through it, the reading section is NUTS. They pick the most obscure, badly written piece and ask about the “Author’s tone” and “Author’s intent” and make the more straightforward questions have answer choices with bizarre phrasing and exoteric vocabulary. Right now, it really is not a measure of how well you will do in college but how well you can GAME the test by memorizing certain phrases and knowing the strategy for certain questions.

The Math section is fine, now. It has tough problems, but since I am now tutoring public school kids in math, the problems they have in their textbooks now are nothing like SAT problems, so that will be a dumbing down. Math skills are at a frightfully bad level, now. Kids are given calculators early at elementary school, so they never learn their basic math facts.

As for the essay, it was a flop. Not many public universities even bother to look at the Writing portion of the test. Again, we learned how to GAME the essay. We basically planned the essay out then my kids learned how to spin their practiced essay to whatever writing prompt they gave them.

Keeping the grammar questions in there, would be fine.

As for “credit for guessing” that is not entirely true. It means you get 0 points for guessing instead of -1/4 pt for incorrect answers. That is the same as the ACT test.

JeffersonFan on March 7, 2014 at 8:33 AM

I don’t want my doctor to guess or not know what all those big words mean.
I want my lawyer to be able to write a brief on my behalf that doesn’t use “common language” or to end each sentence with “you know”.
I don’t want the guy who does my taxes to guess or estimate the numbers.
I don’t want the policeman to guess at what the law means before he arrests me.

srdem65 on March 7, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t being done primarily to increase the scores of minority students. As I recall, one of the biggest comparative differences between standardized test scores in the USA and other countries is that the USA falls behind due to lower scores from much of the minority population (Asians are the exception).

Changing the reading comprehension portion of the test and removing the essay portion may be a subtle way to try and goose those scores.

Revenant on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

Low achievement has nothing to do with race. We have the same issue around here. Welfare moms that spend the EBT on alcohol and cigarettes don’t do much to see to it that her kids learn in school no matter what color the skin is.

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:37 AM

When all else fails, change the metrics for failure.

blammm on March 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM

The SATs should have extra points for race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Viator on March 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM

They’re changing the scoring system to make it more difficult to compare test scores from one year to the next.

Back in the olden days when I took that test, the school wouldn’t release the test scores. It amazes me that everyone now knows what their score was.

Joseph OHenry on March 7, 2014 at 8:41 AM

Points for guessing.

The surgeon operating on your brain, you want him to be guessing what to do next during the procedure?

Bishop on March 7, 2014 at 8:41 AM

Scrumtrulescent!

blammm on March 7, 2014 at 8:42 AM

As for the essay, it was a flop.

JeffersonFan on March 7, 2014 at 8:33 AM

What? 18-year-olds writing on a random topic in a timed environment doesn’t lead to some of our societies most profound prose ever?

Seriously, writing ability is not going to be the critical deciding factor in college applications. Particularly, when you can game the system to apply a generic essay for whatever topic is assigned.

Happy Nomad on March 7, 2014 at 8:42 AM

To put it mildly, I was not exactly a rocket scientist. I managed to break 1340 which wasn’t terrible, but my cousin Rick has already scored 1580 the year before, so any chance at wide approbation among the family was pretty much out the window.

Man, this is so pathetic. This is the very definition of a humble brag, and it is so beneath this site to have Jazz Shaw on its roster. First, of course, by any objective standard, especially in the 1970s, 1340 is a VERY good score. There are just so many false notes in so many of this joker’s posts, he is an embarrassment to Hot Air. Same for his want to be “get off my lawn” persona. Listen, buddy, tough grading standards is not unique to you or “the elderly,” it is a fundamental platform of the conservative educational platform.

Jazz Shaw, the name alone is enough to make one cringe, is a joke to Hot Air and needs to be replaced. I have said it before and I will continue to say it again.

truecon on March 7, 2014 at 8:43 AM

I’ve always sucked at math, but my reading and English skills have always been very good. I took the ACT as a Junior, got a 28 (which was more than good enough for the school I wanted to go to) but that 28 was misleading, I had a horrific Math score, something like a 12 or a 13, but a near perfect on the verbal portion.

I never bothered to take it again as a Senior, nor did I ever take the SAT.

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:43 AM

I’m not sure it’s “dumbing down” so much as updating it. The vocabulary words they showed on the news were not necessarily easier, just more “relevant.” Many of the vocab words, apparently, were things found only in English literature classes, rather than the corporate board room or on the job of most college educated people.

Ricard on March 7, 2014 at 8:43 AM

Casting call for Idiocracy.

Cleombrotus on March 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

a stupid electorate is easily manipulated

tdarrington on March 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

The guessing isn’t a big deal. Guessing wasn’t penalized for about the first 30 years of the SAT and I don’t think it has ever been penalized on the ACT. The dumbing down of the vocabulary though is possibly a bad sign. I would like some examples though. It may be a shift though rather than a dumbing down. Heck, university entrance exams used to have sections with writing Latin and Greek which the SAT did not when debuted in ’26. I’m sure people lamented the end of fine education when students who could not read Ovid in the original Latin were suddenly being admitted to exclusive universities.

The dumbing down of the ACT about 20 years ago and decoupling it from general IQ I think was a mistake. On this new SAT change though, I haven’t seen enough information to get ginned up about it at this point.

deepdiver on March 7, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Am I the only one who never took the SAT? I had the military waiting for me so I didn’t bother.

Here though is a funny essay by a dude in his thirties retaking the SAT just to see what it’s like now that he’s older.

http://deadspin.com/5893189/what-happens-when-a-35-year-old-man-retakes-the-sat

Bishop on March 7, 2014 at 8:48 AM

The SATs should have extra points for race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Viator on March 7, 2014 at 8:38 AM

That still won’t help Holder’s People gain much of an advantage, because even an “oppressive heterosexual white male” can LIE about at least two of those!

ConstantineXI on March 7, 2014 at 8:48 AM

I’m surprised at this post. The College Board, and ETS it’s owner, is a wealthy organization that’s lived off the fears if high school kids for generations. Now the ACT is eating their lunch, competitively speaking, and the overpaid fatcats at ETS are trying to react. The ACT isn’t necessarily an easier test but it is more predictive of college performance than the SAT, and now more widely used. You may not like competition but this is what happens when organizations start falling into second place, they change.

Weird post.

MTF on March 7, 2014 at 8:48 AM

the ones who cared at all worked their butts off preparing for it.

I didn’t even know you could ‘prepare’ for it when I took it. I got a 1400.

Removing old and obscure words that no one ever uses with more relevant words is not a bad thing. language constantly changes, whats the point in making kids learn some words which they’ll only see on the SAT and never anywhere else, ever? It would make more sense to include a section on foreign vocabulary or Latin. (and Latin because a lot of our legal words and medical words come from Latin)

louieny on March 7, 2014 at 8:25 AM

If they’ll only see them on the SAT, then they really shouldn’t be going to college. They don’t have the broad base of communication skill necessary to analyze new information and build on it.

Happy Nomad on March 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Well said, HN.

GWB on March 7, 2014 at 8:53 AM

And then they will still wonder why US continues to fall behind the rest of the world. These are the same ones who think the way to raise our standing in math and science is to have more teachers, not requiring a correct answer.

Tinker on March 7, 2014 at 8:54 AM

a stupid electorate is easily manipulated

tdarrington on March 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

I resemble that remark. Made a 780, but somehow got into college and had to admit I could not read. Did graduate with honurs, but still can’t spell. Kids made in the top 1%, guess they got their smarts from their mum.

HonestLib on March 7, 2014 at 8:55 AM

At least I won’t continue to get looks of horror from my kids when I tell them I scored 1340. As for the vocabulary, someone needs to look up the word “tricky.” How can a word’s meaning be “tricky”? Come to think of it, if they dumb down the English section, perhaps a 1340 may still appear horrible.

Future Gender Studies majors rejoice! All those tricky words used in real degree programs will no longer hinder you from pursuing your Marxist waste of time.

mankai on March 7, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Another change will include granting students credit for guessing. Currently, points are deducted for incorrect answers.

Students currently get credit for guessing correctly. They’re bubbling in dots. No one knows if it’s a guess or not. The difference is that they’re taking away the penalty for an incorrect answer.

Of course, without that penalty, students will just select one of the choices. If you leave it blank then it’s automatically wrong.

yongoro on March 7, 2014 at 9:09 AM

The new vocabulary will include… OMG, BFF, BRB, LOL, and WTF.

WestTexasBirdDog on March 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Points for guessing.

The surgeon operating on your brain, you want him to be guessing what to do next during the procedure?

Bishop on March 7, 2014 at 8:41 AM

Well, maybe he can at least stay at a Holiday Inn Express the night before.

Maybe?

Madcap_Magician on March 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Future Gender Studies majors rejoice! All those tricky words used in real degree programs will no longer hinder you from pursuing your Marxist waste of time.

mankai on March 7, 2014 at 9:06 AM

How cis-heteronormative of you! Don’t you know that gender studies majors just make words up to sound smart?

blammm on March 7, 2014 at 9:11 AM

The mistake at this point is having a standardized test.

Have every university issue its own standardized test.

In this way, a given institution can dumb it down as much as they like without impacting anyone else.

Will this mean kids will have to take multiple tests? So what. They tend to apply for about 5 universities. So that’s five tests.

SATs are generally offered by highschools. Set it up so that the highschools have a selection of tests. When students show up for the test, they say which test they want to take, sit down, and then turn it in when complete.

Only some institutions are crying for this change. Let them have what they want. If that means the standards and quality of their education suffers then the prestige of those institutions will fall with them. Universities that hold to a higher standard will see their prestige rise.

Its all about letting people fail. If the universities want to lower standards. Let them. Just make sure other universities don’t get dragged down with them.

Karmashock on March 7, 2014 at 9:12 AM

Isn’t the SAT just a metric to compare all those who take the test to everybody else? It’s really a means to separate the wheat from the chaff, isn’t it? Isn’t that what a percentile ranking is?

Oh, and thanks for giving HA bloggers an opportunity to lie about their old SAT scores!

BigAlSouth on March 7, 2014 at 9:17 AM

…JugEars must have had trouble… with his SAT’s!

KOOLAID2 on March 7, 2014 at 9:18 AM

God help this country.

buckichick1 on March 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Why was it illegal and punishable by death to teach slaves how to read?

Because education is empowerment.

Keep ‘em stupid, and you’ll keep people voting for the TEAT Party and on the Government Plantation.

Resist We Much on March 7, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Next up: “I sat a WHOLE hour for the SAT!” LOL, MFS, WUWT, KMA….

vnvet on March 7, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Every college in this coountry is filled with remedial course because many can not function at the college level, so the idea is to “Dumb Down” the requirements to get in?
This will improve the system how?
Do we have anyone in the system that understands education?

This mess is provided to us by the same group of moonbats that developed the “Common Core” curriculum, and we are still finding out how stupid that is.

John21 on March 7, 2014 at 9:40 AM

New SAT sample questions:

(1) If Barry has 4 pots, 2 pans, and 4 dishes, how many pots, pans, and dishes will Barry have to clean before Denny’s closes?

(2) Our Government’s function is to:
(a) Provide for all our needs.
(b) Control all aspects of our society.
(c) Regulate, regulate, regulate!
(d) Crush dissent when necessary
(e) Play God.
(f) All of the above.

(3) Michelle has 5 children from 5 different men. Michelle is a:
(a) Model citizen
(b) Our beloved Julia
(c) A staunch democrat
(d) A powerful, independent, modern day woman.
(e) All of the above.

(4) Mandarin is:
(a) A small orange
(b) Iron Man’s nemesis
(c) Your new language.

(5) Republicans with white hoods and a massive arsenal are trying to break into your grandmother’s house to take away her medicare, cat food, birth control, and her right to vote. How many Republicans are at her door?
(a) All of them
(b) All of the above

StubbornGreenBurros on March 7, 2014 at 9:43 AM

I took it one time in 1968 and got into the college that I wanted to get into, that was my goal. I did find out that when I got to college that I did need to work to get the A’s that I finally earned. Today I realize that they give some people extra time to complete the test and even give courses on how to take the exam. Back in my day they didn’t.

I do feel like that I was born 30 years to early. If I only had a computer while I was back in college. No young adult in college today knows what it like to write several rough drafts of his or her term papers with pen and paper.

SC.Charlie on March 7, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Resist We Much on March 7, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Where you been?!? Been missing your turn on things.

GWB on March 7, 2014 at 9:49 AM

Stubborn…good stuff!

vnvet on March 7, 2014 at 9:54 AM

The new vocabulary will include… OMG, BFF, BRB, LOL, and WTF. – WestTexasBirdDog on March 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Over my dead body.

SC.Charlie on March 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM

StubbornGreenBurros on March 7, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Awesome! :)

I lost it on taking grandma’s birth control. Painfully funny! Then again, many of these kids have grandmothers in their 40s.

mankai on March 7, 2014 at 9:56 AM

The new vocabulary will include… OMG, BFF, BRB, LOL, and WTF. – WestTexasBirdDog on March 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Over my dead body.

SC.Charlie on March 7, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Did you mean OMDB?

mankai on March 7, 2014 at 9:58 AM

I’m reminded of a certain chancellor upon the invasion of Russia (operation Barbarossa) said “We will only teach the Russians to read
road signs and count to one hundred. That will be all they need.”

partsnlabor on March 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

Jazz, I love you man, but you are far out on this one. My wife teaches SAT preparation professionally for Kaplan, and she could not be more pleased by these changes.

The changes to the SAT have one reason: to force kids to know what they are being tested on, not just the tricks of how to get a good score.

For instance, take the essay portion. Right now, all you have to do is cobble together an essay, any essay, using the right series of steps. Your essay doesn’t have to make sense, or even be what you believe. As an example, my wife recently scored a student essay where he told us about how many times Albert Einstein tried different filaments to create the first light bulb. Another student told her confidently that the War of 1812 started in 1945. Some students go into the test with a few quotes memorized from a source, any source. They just plug them into their essay regardless of whether they have any bearing on their thought process, and viola! an automatically better score. Because all they have been taught is “tricks” to pass rather than how to think, they were writing great SAT essays – but complete garbage.

The same goes for big words. The SAT has a lot of big words, sure. But companies like Kaplan do not need to teach kids all the big words or how to get a good vocabulary. Instead, the way the test is structured right now, you can use a few quick tricks to figure them out in context or simply jump right over them.

I could go on. But trust me on this, the SAT as it stands now is a very poor predictor of how students will do in college. Maybe this is why so many universities are dropping it from their entrance requirements. Which is maybe why the College Board is reworking it.

JoseQuinones on March 7, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Unless you have kids in high school or college now, you have no idea what a disaster the SAT test is and how reviled it is since the most recent changes. More and more kids are not taking it at all because it (a) is a poor reflector of actual knowledge that kids should have going into college, (b) the essay is ridiculous, even for good writers, and (c) it is WAY too easy to “game” the SAT and get a high score by learning all the tricks. And yes, there are tricks to getting a high score on the essay too. Students from wealthier families can afford the expensive prep courses that teach all these tricks, while those who can’t afford it or just try to study on their own usually get lower scores.

My older child got drastically different scores on the SAT and ACT. He was always an excellent reader and writer, consistently scored in the 99th perecentile in reading and writing on his state tests, had straight As in English, and even took a SAT vocab class in high school just to bone up on the vocabulary. But he only scored in the 85th percentile on the SAT reading/vocab test. He was so upset after the test. He told us that there were numerous vocab words on it that he had never seen before and could not even have guessed the meaning of. He thought the essay topic was BS and did not think he had answered it well even though he was an outstanding writer because he didn’t agree with the premise of the question.

He got a 35 out of 36 on the ACT reading test, in the 99th percentile. He did not think it was “easier” than the SAT, but that the questions on it definitely better reflected what he had learned in school. That told me there is something really wrong with the SAT. He was accepted at one prestige university based on his ACT score but never would have been accepted on his SAT.

There is nothing wrong with expecting students to learn some advanced vocabulary before entering college. But the SAT regularly picks out some ridiculously obscure words that nobody actually uses and you will not find in any college textbook. College textbooks are written to a 10th grade reading level, yet the SAT is asking high school juniors to have Ph.D. level vocabulary.

A great article in yesterday’s NYT explained a lot of these changes. As one of those who is involved said, “no employer ever sends this email: Is failure necessary to achieve success? I need a five paragraph answer in 25 minutes with source material cited.”

rockmom on March 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

I’m reminded of a certain chancellor upon the invasion of Russia (operation Barbarossa) said “We will only teach the Russians to read
road signs and count to one hundred. That will be all they need.” – partsnlabor on March 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

What are you trying to say? I grade your statement an F.

SC.Charlie on March 7, 2014 at 10:10 AM

In terms of top X% of takers, I did better on the ACT (33 composite score) than I did the first time taking the SAT (13XX the first time, I think; the total possible at that time was 1600) despite the fact that I didn’t study a bit for the ACT, but practiced like crazy for the SAT. The hardest vocabulary on the SAT was a bit too focused on that appropriate for literature majors, I agree, but it sounds like they’re dumbing everything down which is a shame. Someone in the comments said they removed analogies. Really? That sucks.

DisneyFan on March 7, 2014 at 10:13 AM

I used to tutor for the SAT, and they have no difficult vocabulary, believe me.

On every essay question, though, the sample essay was always, always, from a left point of view. I told the kids, give them what they want.

PattyJ on March 7, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Are they adding questions about zombies, too?

Ward Cleaver on March 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM

iirc I was also 1340.
math killed me, comprehension stuff I did well on.
took asvabs right after, was 98% or so.

dmacleo on March 7, 2014 at 8:12 AM

I took the ASVAB in high school. I was training to be an aircraft mechanic then, but in what category did I score highest? Computers (data processing then). What am I working in now? IT.

Ward Cleaver on March 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

They just plug them into their essay regardless of whether they have any bearing on their thought process, and viola! an automatically better score.

So does someone play a stringed instrument a bit larger than a violin, are they given flowers, or does Viola Davis appear to congratulate them?

The word you’re looking for is “voilà‎”. You can leave the accent mark off if you don’t know how to type it, but getting the letters in the right order does matter.

The Monster on March 7, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Future Gender Studies majors rejoice! All those tricky words used in real degree programs will no longer hinder you from pursuing your Marxist waste of time.

mankai on March 7, 2014 at 9:06 AM

Gender studies would greatly improve from a simplification from all those tricky words like homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual. Only two words are needed: male and female.

Steve Z on March 7, 2014 at 10:36 AM

But the essay is optional? I assume that’s just to help people score better if they’re … bad at writing?

The essay section is generally agreed to be a disaster. It’s been shown that scores correlate almost entirely to essay length. You can write the incomprehensible garbage imaginable but as long as you write it long enough, you’ll get a good score. They can’t ditch it fast enough.

The other problem is that the SAT has become so intensive that it’s basically stopped being a leg up for smart kids from poor and middle-class backgrounds. People spend hundreds, sometimes thousands on test prep and get huge advantages on the test. The SAT and education in general should be a way for people to improve their lot in life through hard work and discipline, not something yet another way to just buy advantages in life.

Hal_10000 on March 7, 2014 at 10:38 AM

My wife teaches SAT preparation professionally for Kaplan, and she could not be more pleased by these changes.

JoseQuinones on March 7, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Ummm, appeal to authority that directly involves nepotism is rather ineffectual, don’t you think?

GWB on March 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

(3) Michelle has 5 children from 5 different men. Michelle is a:
(a) Model citizen
(b) Our beloved Julia
(c) A staunch democrat
(d) A powerful, independent, modern day woman.
(e) All of the above.

You forgot the correct answer. The Samaritan at the well.

Steve Z on March 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

(And yes, I realize the irony of having made a couple of grammar errors in my comment. Yeesh. We need an edit button.)

Hal_10000 on March 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Yes. Let’s dumb things down so people ‘feel’ smarter.
Now. deliver on your smartness!

TerryW on March 7, 2014 at 10:47 AM

I fail to see the importance of SAT, ACT or whatever college entrance exams they choose to apply.

None will apply to affirmative action candidates and the extremely wealthy will buy their children way in to the “elite” schools.

Once again it’s a fail for the middle class to have a chance to advance (unless they are classified as a minority) and easy – albeit expensive – gimme for the rich.

I have no gripe against the rich. Most have sacrificed a hell of a lot to get there. I also have no desire to join their ranks. I admire their contributions to society, but I’m pretty happy making enough to do want just what I want.

I paid for my own education and I explained to my children that they would have to pay for their own. If they want it they have to earn it. So far 2 outta 3 understand and are doing fine. I expect the 3rd will figure it out or realize she doesn’t really want it anyway.

NiteOwl on March 7, 2014 at 10:47 AM

QUESTION 77: R U down wif the redcoats or with the revolutionaries in the Battle of Bunker Hill?

A. Redcoats, yo
B. I am totes wif the Washington dude
C. Whatevs–I don’t do racist dead white man history
D.Pass

I mourn my nation.

orangemtl on March 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

This conversation about testing is just misdirection. Frankly, if kids were getting an effective education, the form of the test would be much less of an issue: kids who are educated…those who have read widely, been taught professionally by motivated teachers, and learned their math skills, can overcome a bad test. At worst, the tests can be graded on a curve, once the deficiencies have been identified.

But our educational system today fails at every level, as does the life experiences of the kids themselves. Schools are giving up teaching children to write in cursive, ignoring grammer and spelling. And kids spend much of their time learning to mispell with their thumbs on their “smart” (boy, there is a misnomer)phones. How ironic…smart phones turning users into dumb people.

If someone ever sets off a neutron bomb, a whole generation of humans will be left with no survival skills and now way to communicate the written word…and will have to learn all over again how to communicate in person, face to face.

No one honestly cares about testing to see accomplishment anymore. They are simply to back up someone’s point of view about learning and to make money from giving and scoring. And, if making the questions easier or marking the tests easier makes the customers happy, that will happen. Just more proof of the dumbing down of America.

TKPedersen42 on March 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

I tutored extensively in an inner-city school. This seems consistent with the notion that black adults don’t beat out of black kids: doing well in school is to be denigrated as “acting white.”

This will help to improve the chances that while these students won’t be learning anything, they won’t be held back by objective intelligence.

BuckeyeSam on March 7, 2014 at 11:10 AM

And difficult vocabulary will be replaced with words that students are more likely to use in college or in the workplace

Most likely they will add text words – those would be the ones kids use. Of course the reality that many today can’t spell worth a spit nor have any concept of root words shouldn’t bother us. How verbal do you need to be if you’re working part time at Sonic?

katiejane on March 7, 2014 at 11:12 AM

The wise will always succeed, the intelligent will always achieve, and the ignorant will always vote democrat, get EBT, and bitch about everyone that pays their bills.

Nothing new in the world. :-(

NiteOwl on March 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Aww golly shucks, I used a bad word… gotta wait for moderation… LOL, first time for every thing I guess. :-)

NiteOwl on March 7, 2014 at 11:17 AM

I’m sure this has to with Obama possibly releasing his grades. It will make his 1600 now look like a perfect score.

Tater Salad on March 7, 2014 at 11:19 AM

I’m sure this has to with Obama possibly releasing his grades. It will make his 1600 now look like a perfect score.

Tater Salad on March 7, 2014 at 11:19 AM

They will not release his score until he has been dead at least 100 years… and even then they will be altered.

NiteOwl on March 7, 2014 at 11:23 AM

The reason for changing the score back to 1600 is the removal of the essay. When the essay was added, the score was bumped up.

Some of these changes make sense. As much as people may like the idea of the essay, grading essays is very subjective, which makes it hard to compare similar scores for two students. And while I have no sympathy for the idea of dumbing down the vocabulary in general, I think you’d have to admit that some of the words are obscure enough that they’re more of a trivia quiz than a measure of vocabulary.

I know one of the goals is to make the SAT harder to coach for, which makes the SAT less a measure of knowledge learned, and more a measure of aptitude.

I don’t really know that these changes are all that bad. Any change that leads to any part of the SAT being simpler is vulnerable to a charge of “dumbing down,” but sometimes the test needs to be revised.

I’d be more concerned by the scope of the revision. It seems to me that radical changes in the SAT make it harder to compare scores across a broad spectrum of students, which makes it less useful. Changes should be made carefully and gradually.

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 7, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Everyone gets a trophy…

dpduq on March 7, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Getting rid of the penalty for wrong guesses is kind of stupid. First off, if I remember correctly, the points lost are not equal to the points gained for a correct answer, so someone who can use process of elimination to narrow it down to two possibilities still gets, in average, more points than someone who leaves the question blank. If, for example, the penalty is half a point, the person who narrows it down to two possibilities will get 1/4 of a point on average – better than the 0 points for leaving things blank.

Moreover, guessing is very bad – I would go the other way, actually, and make the penalty more points than the correct answer, so that it is NEVER advantageous to guess – knowing that you don’t know the answer to something is much better than mistakenly thinking you do. The former prevents you from building a space shuttle, while the latter will get you a space shuttle that explodes.

Also, discouraging guessing will reduce the variance in the test results, mitigating the phenomenon of students who take the test ten times and get lucky once. Right now, the only disincentive to do this is that colleges can see how many times you’ve taken the exam and take that into account, but that’s not an optimal solution, because you WANT students to take the test repeatedly if they really have improved.

I do agree there is some benefit to having people use process of elimination, but if they want to measure that ability, they should simply give students an opportunity to fill in more than one bubble, with the understanding that if you fill in more than one bubble, you are claiming to have ruled out everything left blank. Then award partial credit for people who rule out some wrong answers, but still did not rule out the correct answer.

RINO in Name Only on March 7, 2014 at 11:47 AM

He did not think it was “easier” than the SAT, but that the questions on it definitely better reflected what he had learned in school.

rockmom on March 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Is it remotely possible that it’s not the SAT’s fault but rather the failing of our schools? I’ve never been a big fan of standardized testing, but do we really need to dumb down a test to match the inferior level of teaching in our schools? How about keeping the testing the same and improve the quality of our educational system?

HughJass on March 7, 2014 at 11:49 AM

Changes had to be made since our high schools are turning out dumber and dumber students, thanks to things like Common Core, “feel good” stuff, outcome-based education, etc.

sadatoni on March 7, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Are they adding questions about zombies, too?

Ward Cleaver on March 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Absolutely not. People who are irresponsible or incompetent enough to not ALREADY know the basic survival skills for the zombie apocalypse should get no advance warning about how ill-prepared they are. Better to let them be caught completely off guard and die quickly, in the first wave, before their bumbling can drag the rest of humanity down with them.

RINO in Name Only on March 7, 2014 at 12:02 PM

He did not think it was “easier” than the SAT, but that the questions on it definitely better reflected what he had learned in school.

rockmom on March 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

I didn’t think that the SAT was ever supposed to be a literal test of WHAT you had learned – rather a way of assessing whether you can make utilize what you have learned to deal with unknowns rather than just spitting it back.

katiejane on March 7, 2014 at 12:08 PM

To bad I can’t make a reasonable sentence:

rather a way of assessing whether you can make utilize what you have learned to deal with unknowns rather than just spitting it back.

katiejane on March 7, 2014 at 12:10 PM

I give up – I’ve just doubled down on my sentence stupidity.
Too bad I can’t make a reasonable sentence

katiejane on March 7, 2014 at 12:13 PM

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