by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The Times They Are A-Changin’. So goes a Bob Dylan song — and so too for the SAT, the most popular standardized test used for college admission decisions.
Just about every aspect of the venerable college entrance exam, a rite of passage for generations of college-bound teens, changed as of March 2005. See sidebar for a snapshot of these changes.
But before getting to the changes, it might be helpful to have just a bit of background on the SAT. The test was designed to test general reasoning skills of college-bound students based on the knowledge and skills developed throughout high school. It was not meant to be an achievement test, much like its smaller competitor, the ACT, which measures mastery of curriculum (think high- school final exam) more than reasoning and logic.
And while there have been adjustments and minor changes through the years, it wasn’t until 2001 when the president of the University of California system, o ne of the biggest clients of the SAT, demanded changes to it. That set in motion the change from a test that measures aptitude to one that measures mastery of subject areas.
What should every high school student and parent know about the SAT? The short answer is that just about everything has changed with the SAT.
The SAT now has three components, rather than two. The three components are writing, critical reading, and math. The old SAT had just math and verbal.
The SAT now has a writing component, where test-takers will have to compose an essay on the spot. Essays will be graded by trained high-school and college teachers.
The SAT now takes longer. The old three-hour test has expanded 25 percent to a three-hour and 45-minute test.
The SAT has new scoring. While each component will still have a scoring value from 200-800, the new top score will now be 2,400 rather than the former standard of 1,600.
The SAT is costlier — perhaps to pay for the labor-intensive grading of the writing component — from the previous $29.50 to $41.50, a 41 percent increase.
The SAT uses more subject-specific jargon in the questions, so besides understanding English and math, test-takers also need to know the vocabulary used in those subjects.
The PSAT will also change to reflect the changes in the SAT, though the PSAT will not have the writing component. And the ACT now has an optional essay component.
Learn more about the SAT by going to the source: CollegeBoard.org.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.
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