June 24, 2018 | ° F

College Board overhauls SAT essay, score system

Photo by Photo Illustration by Michelle Klejmont |

Beginning in 2016, the SAT will no longer have a mandatory essay section. The College Board is returning to a 1600-point scale and will not deduct points for wrong answers.

Aspiring Rutgers students are in for some changes to the application process.

Last Wednesday, The College Board announced a strong departure from the current format of the SAT, one of the nation’s leading college admission exams.

They plan to eliminate the 2400-point scoring system introduced in 2005 in favor of the prior 1600-point basis, with an optional essay sub-score replacing the current essay section, according to an article in The New York Times.

The College Board is also offering college application fee waivers for low-income high school students, according to a news release from the nonprofit organization. The redesign comes along with a partnership between the organization and Khan Academy to offer free courses, and both are focused on students in the low-income category.

They will no longer deduct a quarter of a point for an incorrect answer, according to the news release. The new SAT will be available in both paper and digital formats.

Courtney McAnuff, vice president of Enrollment Management at Rutgers, said the revisions reflect the upswing in popularity of the American College Testing, or ACT, a competing assessment.

“Twelve states use the ACT as a state exam for high school graduation,” he said. “More students took the ACTs last year than the SAT.”

According to The New York Times, the ACT essay is already optional, and the exam is based more on high school curriculums.

McAnuff served on the committee that studied college and SAT access for low-income students. The committee found many poor students had difficulty paying the exam fee.

Rutgers agreed to participate in the fee waiver, allowing low-income students to skip the $60 payment to apply. They can also send their scores to four colleges without paying an additional sending fee.

Undergraduate Admissions will continue to use standardized exams in the foreseeable future, as it helps the office compare the performance of students from distinct high schools and neighborhoods.

“The SAT is a national norm,” he said. “A 4.0 in one high school is not equal to a 4.0 in another, but the SAT is the same for every student.”

According to the news release, the SAT will now be divided into three sections — evidence-based reading and writing, math and an optional essay — totaling three hours. The essay section length has tentatively been expanded from 25 to 50 minutes.

Rather than ask students to defend an opinion, the essay section will ask students to analyze the arguments of an author and evaluate their work, according to the news release.

The College Board plans to change the vocabulary section to reflect words students tend to encounter in college settings, such as “empirical,” according to The New York Times.

In the math section, participants will answer questions in three main areas: linear equations, ratios and functions, according to The New York Times.

The College Board said in the release that passages for the critical reading section would come from a wider variety of source documents, from history to literature to science.

At least one passage in each exam will come from a founding document, such as the Declaration of Independence or a discussion of their ideas, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

In the news release, Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Supreme Court justice, said she was glad to see students studying for the exam with founding documents.

“Every one of us as citizens of this country needs to be familiar with those founding documents and what they say and why they matter,” she said.

They plan to release the details sample question of the exam on April 16.

Katie Lagreca, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, worked closely with girls in foster care. She said many of them were severely disadvantaged for taking the SAT.

“One of the girls wanted to go to Monmouth University, but she was from Elizabeth, [N.J.,] and she wouldn’t even know where to go for SAT help,” she said. “She told me, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get in.’”

She applauded the efforts of The College Board to make the test itself more accessible for low-income students but would prefer to see them offer more test preparation.

All of the girls she worked with aspired to attend college, but their schools did not prepare them fully for standardized exams. She said one girl’s school did not even mention the Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment, which is required for eighth-grade students in New Jersey public schools.

The girls she worked with were not provided proper vocabulary training. She had to be cognizant of keeping her word choice simple so she could be easily understood.

But she also believed elimination of the mandatory essay would be detrimental to students in the long term.

“Writing is what’s going to make you excel in college,” she said. “It’s not optional [here].”

Ken Kelemen, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, was surprised by the changes. He said they were unfair to current college students.

He especially disliked preparing for the essay section when he took the test.

“We were forced to practice writing essays in 20 minutes,” he said.

By Erin Petenko

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