New SAT Vocabulary Breaks Down in Tiers

The new SAT divides vocabulary into three tiers, reports The Christian Science Monitor. “Tier One words are the simple ones children will pick up on their own: clock, say, or baby. Tier Three words – isotope, say, or peninsula – are generally tied to a specific domain and best learned as needed. Tier Two words tend to have multiple meanings, across a range of domains.” Yes, there’s a word for that: “Polysemy, your 50-cent new word for the day, means having, or being open to, multiple meanings … Host, for instance. It’s used in biology and computer science as well as in social conversation and other areas.”

“The old SAT rewarded rote memorization of definitions. The new test asks students what words are being used to mean in the context of a particular passage. The New SAT … is particularly concerned with testing how well students are identifying ‘arguments’ and ‘claims’ being made in the reading passages, and the ‘evidence’ presented to support them. But if a student thinks of an ‘argument’ not as a tool of persuasion but rather as something likely to get him sent to the principal’s office, he might not do too well on the test.”

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Quote of the Day: Leon Botstein

“They don’t do anybody any good, not the taker, not the college, and America is obsessed with these tests—the college rankings are partially to blame for this. They’re dumb. They are useless. Doing well on a test has nothing to do with learning and nothing to do with actually being successful in life. It helps you get into college, and you learn absolutely nothing from it.” – Bard College president Leon Botstein on the SAT and ACT.

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The New SAT Is For Students Only

Quartz: “College Board, the organization that runs the SAT, is putting its foot down. When the next test is administered in the US this Saturday (March 5), the only people who will be allowed to sit the exam are college-bound students and those using the score to apply to financial aid programs—no test prep professionals, providers, or counselors.”

“The change, the College Board says, was made to ‘ensure that everyone taking the test is doing so for its intended purpose’— which presumably means preventing nefarious test prep companies from stealing questions and selling them. There’s another explanation. This weekend will be the first administration of the redesigned, potentially bug-ridden SAT,” and the College Board may not want extra exposure for the new test, which has already attracted controversy.

“Banning non-students from the test won’t stop students themselves from cheating, in any case … Perhaps it’s one reason US colleges are increasingly dropping SAT requirements and relying more on measures of applicant quality such as essays, extracurriculars, and special demonstrations of talent.”

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Test Scores & The Time of Day

Pacific Standard: “As it turns out, each hour that passes before starting a test drags scores down by a little bit, meaning students who take a test late in the day will perform noticeably worse.” A study by economists Hans Henrik Sievertsen, Francesca Gino, and Marco Piovesan “analyzed scores from every student who took the Danish National Tests between the 2009–10 and the 2012–13 school years … Tests were given in three parts, presented to each student in random order, and lasted throughout the day, with breaks around 10 a.m. and noon.”

“Percentile rankings, which show where students rank on a 100-point scale, declined by about two-tenths of a point per hour on average, though how much scores dropped—and whether they dropped at all—changed throughout the day. Students who took a test at 9 a.m., for example, ranked 1.35 points lower than those who were tested on the same material at 8 a.m. Ranks increased 0.37 points after a 10 a.m. break, but dropped again by 0.58 points for tests taken at 11 a.m.”

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New SAT Stresses Reading Comprehension

“The College Board, which makes the SAT, is rolling out a new test — its biggest redesign in a decade, and one of the most substantial ever,” The New York Times reports. “Chief among the changes, experts say: longer and harder reading passages and more words in math problems.”

“The College Board said that the number of words in the reading section had remained the same — about 3,250 on the new test, and 3,300 on the old one — and that the percentage of word problems in the math sections of the old and the new test was roughly the same, about 30 percent … But outside analysts say the way the words are presented makes a difference. For instance, short sentence-completion questions, which tested logic and vocabulary, have been eliminated in favor of longer reading passages …These contain sophisticated words and thoughts in sometimes ornate diction.”

“College Board officials said the new test was devised to satisfy the demands of college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors for an exam that more clearly showed a connection to what students were learning in school. The College Board has also been grappling with complaints that the old SAT, with its arcane vocabulary questions, correlated with advantages like parental income and education, and that whites and Asians performed better on average than blacks and Hispanics.”

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