Professor Offers Insight on New SAT
March 17, 2005

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MACON—The new SAT Reasoning Test, which was administered for the first time on March 12, features several changes that give college officials a better idea of how prepared students are for college study, but the writing section poses some concerns, according to Dr. Karen Michael, an assistant professor at Mercer University's Tift College of Education.

Changes to the test include the addition of problems taught in third-year college preparatory math courses, more critical reading questions, the elimination of analogies and a new writing section.

"The inclusion of the Standard English multiple choice questions and the 25-minute essay may provide interesting and superior results since students spend more time in school writing than they do studying analogies," Michael said. "The analogy portion of the SAT has been criticized for years because it does not accurately predict a student's ability to do well in college."

Michael said the writing portion will enable educators to investigate the data to determine students' writing strengths and weaknesses, but the essay will most likely require students to write a structured, formulaic text. Students may have difficulty writing a creative piece that is interesting and free of mechanical errors in such a short time frame.

The essay is a small portion of the SAT.  It counts as one third of the writing section (800 points) and one-ninth of the entire SAT (2400 points).

"One of my concerns is that only two raters will evaluate a student's essay," Michael said.

She explained that a third rater will not review the essay unless there is a discrepancy between the two raters' scores.

"An essay that is graded cursorily is not a quality indicator of a student's ability to write," the Mercer faculty member said. "A student writing a scripted five paragraph essay in under 25 minutes is writing to the test and this may not measure the student's actual writing abilities. It may measure proficiency, but not quality or creativity."

Michael completed her dissertation on the fifth grade standardized writing test and served on a testing committed when she taught school in Gwinnett County.
 
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