College Board votes to develop new SAT

NEW YORK, Los Angeles Times

Trustees of the College Board voted unanimously Thursday to develop a new SAT, adding a writing test, beefing up the math section and making other major changes in the college admissions exam.

The new test, to be given for the first time in March 2005, will include questions based on advanced algebra, not just algebra and geometry as it does now. It will replace verbal analogies with additional reading comprehension questions. And, most significantly, it will require each student to produce a handwritten essay as part of the new writing exam.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said the revamped SAT will improve on the existing test by “placing the highest possible emphasis on the most important college success skills — reading and mathematics, and now, writing.” He also said it will be more closely aligned with high school curriculum and state educational standards.

The Scholastic Assessment Test was taken last year by 1.3 million high school students, many of whom took it more than once in an effort to improve their scores, College Board officials said. The new test will cost students US$10 to US$12 more than the current one, which is priced at US$26 this fall. It will also grow in length, from three hours to 3 1/2.

And it will include a new feature that will give students and schools feedback after the test is over on ways to improve performance.

The decision to overhaul the SAT, a test that has assumed a larger-than-life role for students seeking entrance to the most competitive universities, was made in a meeting here of the College Board, a 31-member panel that includes college administrators, school superintendents and teachers.

The move was propelled in part by the University of California, the biggest client of the SAT, which had threatened to scrap the exam in favor of a test more closely linked with high school course work. In a highly-publicized speech last year, UC President Richard C. Atkinson publicly questioned the value of the test and said it was unfair to many students.

On Thursday, though, Atkinson said he was delighted with the College Board’s decision and said plans for the new test appeared to meet the university’s demands for change.

More broadly, he said, the new test, with its emphasis on writing and on strengthened math skills, could have a “transforming” effect on schools across the country.