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April 17, 2014

College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT

WASHINGTON — Anxious students — not to mention their parents — can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years.

Sample questions for the new version of the college-entrance test were released on Wednesday by the College Board, which announced last month that the new test will include real-world applications and require more analysis. Students will also be asked to cite evidence to show their understanding of texts.

A reading passage provided as an example was adapted from a speech delivered in 1974 by Rep. Barbara Jordan, D-Texas, during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon. Test takers must answer questions that best describe Jordan’s stance and the main rhetorical effect of a part of the passage.

Another sample question asks test takers to calculate what it would cost an American traveling in India to convert dollars to rupees. Another question requires students to use the findings of a political survey to answer questions.

The College Board said all the information about the redesigned test, which is due out in 2016, is in draft form and subject to change.

“It is our goal that every student who takes the test will be well informed and will know exactly what to expect on the day of the test,” College Board President David Coleman and Cynthia Schmeiser, the College Board’s chief of assessment, said in a letter posted online.

Every test will include a passage from the U.S. founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, or conversations they’ve inspired, the College Board has said. The essay section, which is becoming optional, will require students to read a passage and explain how the author constructed an argument.

Other changes to the SAT include making a computer-based version of the test an option, getting rid of the penalty for wrong answers, limiting the use of a calculator to select sections and returning to a 1,600-point scale. The College Board said obscure vocabulary words would be replaced with those more likely to be used in classrooms or on the job, and the math section will concentrate on areas that “matter most for college and career readiness and success.”

The SAT was once the predominant college admissions exam, but it has been overtaken in popularity by the ACT.

The ACT, which already offers an optional essay, announced last year that it would begin making computer-based testing available. It said Monday that about 4,000 high school students had taken a digital version of the ACT two days earlier as part of a pilot.

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