Tagged: New SAT

Khan’s Partners

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Question:

What do NASA, Dartmouth College, the Aspen Institute, and LeBron James have in common?

Answer:

They have all partnered with Khan Academy, supplying content for their website!

To refresh your memory, Khan Academy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”  They are an empowering enterprise, and one that you should be aware of.  If nothing else, Khan Academy will inspire you with slogans like:

Khan Academy

But let that inspiration be only the beginning!  As was highlighted in an earlier blog post, Khan Academy recently formed a partnership with the College Board through which the two provide you, the soon-to-be test taker, with free access to information about the redesigned SAT, full-length practice tests, short quizzes, test-taking tips, video lessons, and personalized recommendations on what to further improve.  As they write on their website, the idea behind the initiative is that you have the resources at your disposal “to take ownership of your learning and your future.”  Cool.

Furthermore, while you’re on the Khan Academy site, take some time to visit LeBron Asks!  You can find answers to some thought-provoking questions there.  I mean, how does shooting a basketball illustrate Newton’s 3rd Law?  Why does sweating cool you down?  And if Earth’s history were a basketball game, when did humans appear?  Likewise, measure the universe with NASA!  Learn more about algorithms with Dartmouth College!  Consider pressing issues with The Aspen Institute!  These may not be specific questions or topics on your upcoming SAT test, but they’re certainly interesting food for thought, and anything that gets the wheels in your head turning, that trip to the gym for your active mind, is good preparation for all that is to come.

 

89 Years of SAT Testing

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SAT Test3They say that good luck is the result of hard work and preparation, and while that is certainly true, good luck also depends on the crucial ingredient of luck!  To those of you taking the SAT and SAT Subject Tests today, I wish you, in the words of Borat, great success!  May all your hard work and preparation pay off, and may the element of luck be working in your favor today.

And now for a topic that won’t be tested on today’s SAT exam – history.  Specifically, a brief history of the SAT is the focus of today’s blog post!  While the first standardized college admissions tests were developed in 1901, the first SAT was first administered, and to only a few thousand students, in June of 1926.  This test had evolved from an IQ test given to U.S. Army recruits during World War I, called the Army Alpha, and its momentum grew over the years.  In 1933, the President of Harvard University, James Bryant Conant, started a new scholarship program for gifted applicants, but wanted a way to determine which candidates were indeed intellectually gifted – enter the SAT test, stage right.  In 1938, after considering what had been going on at Harvard over the past half decade, the College Board decided to use the SAT test for all scholarship applicants.  In 1941, the test was normalized (meaning that scores from one version of the test could be compared to scores from a different version) and, by 1942, the SAT became the admissions test for all college applicants.

Some other interesting facts about the SAT:

  • The SAT was originally scored by hand, and it wasn’t until 1939 that the test was scored by a machine.
  • Originally, students were not told what score they received on the test – this was information that only their high schools and prospective colleges were privy to.  In 1958, high schools were permitted to tell students their scores.  Finally, in 1971, students were mailed their test scores.
  • The fee-waiver program, for students from low-income families, began in 1969.
  • 1984 marked the beginning of test-prep as we think of it today, with the College Board first publishing test information and full-length practice tests.
  • In 1994, students were first allowed to use calculators while taking the test.
  • Score choice was only introduced in 2009 – for more information about score choice, click here.

Finally, the test material has undergone many revisions over the years (with the next major overhaul coming your way in March of 2016 – read more about it here).  If you’re curious to see what the first SAT test looked like, back in 1926, check out this cool page from smithsonian.com!

The Details of Design

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You’re going to be hearing a lot about the new SAT, coming to a test-taking center near you in March of 2016, and the debate on whether it’s an improvement will be heated.  But debate is important, as is a serious reflection on the test’s changes.  Recently, the New York Times published an opinion piece entitled, The Big Problem with the New SAT.  I whole-heartedly agree with criticisms discussed by the authors.

My takeaways:

  • Though the content is revised, the new test is still designed to produce a bell-curve distribution of scores. This means that you will still be ranked compared to others taking the test rather than having your performance measured against a fixed academic standard.
  • This is problematic because small differences in correct answers can still have a large impact on scores, so those who can afford expensive test-prep services will continue to have an edge over their less affluent peers.

The College Board and Khan Academy have teamed up to make new SAT test-prep materials free and accessible to all (“a future determined by merit, not money”, an admirable goal) but until the underlying design of the test is altered, the college admissions playing field will remain noticeably unleveled.  The coming launch of the new SAT may well be a situation of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, and time alone will tell how it plays out.  In the meantime, did you know that there are test-optional schools out there?  Check out: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional