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March 8, 2014

School officials take new SAT in stride

Sweeping changes to format start in 2016

(Continued)

Currently at a score scale of 2,400, the new SAT will drop to its former score scale of 1,600 and test takers will no longer be penalized for marking off incorrect answers.

“There are no wrong answer penalties,” Exner said. “So I think that is a bonus.”

The essay section of the test will have a separate score starting in 2016 and will no longer be mandatory, which is something that Farmer has some concerns about.

“At first blush, I have some reservations about dropping the essay,” Farmer said. “Because it seems to me that independent writing by a student is one of the ways we are able to assess their capacity to synthesize and use knowledge rather than regurgitate it. It does require demonstration of independent thinking. Being able to manipulate information to make an argument which is not always easy through other testing arraignments.”

Although Exner shares Farmer’s concerns about the essay, she was pleased with that the time allotted to finish the written portion has been increased.

“Not all of the colleges were utilizing the writing portion,” Exner said. “Currently, they have 25 minutes to write an essay. The new (SAT) will give them 50 minutes, which is quite different for a student when they are trying to gather all that information.”

Just as the essay is only one portion of the SAT, Exner stressed that the standardized test itself is merely one dimension of a student’s college application.

“The SAT is just one piece that college admissions are looking for,” Exner said. “I would hope they are not laying all their hopes on total SAT scores. And I don’t think that is going to change because the colleges look at the student’s essays and their overall grades for four years versus three hours and fifty minutes of testing.”

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