New SAT chal­lenges Chi­nese stu­dents

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­

An over­hauled SAT with a heav­ier em­pha­sis on read­ing com­pre­hen­sion may af­fect Chi­nese stu­dents’ per­for­mance, ac­cord­ing to some in­dus­try ex­perts.

Some of those stu­dents have tra­di­tion­ally ex­celled in the math por­tion of the test and have re­lied heav­ily on rote mem­o­riza­tion and cram­ming.

The new test will fea­ture longer and more dif­fi­cult read­ing pas­sages as well as wordier math prob­lems that the Col­lege Board, which ad­min­is­ters the test, said will test stu­dents on their re­al­world ap­pli­ca­tions.

Short sen­tence-com­ple­tion ques­tions will be elim­i­nated, and stu­dents will have to fig­ure out the mean­ing of vo­cab­u­lary words in read­ing pas­sages.

The writ­ing sec­tion will be op­tional, and max­i­mum scores are go­ing back to 1600, down from the 2400 points for the tests ad­min­is­tered be­tween 2005 and 2016. The over­haul of the SAT is the most sub­stan­tial in a decade.

Some col­lege ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers and education ex­perts say that stu­dents from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies and non-na­tive English­s­peak­ing coun­tries will be at a dis­ad­van­tage when be­ing tested with longer read­ing pas­sages.

“The heav­ier weight­ing on ex­tended read­ing pas­sages could well put kids whose home lan­guage is not English at a dis­ad­van­tage, be­cause the test re­mains speeded — time is a key is­sue,” said Robert Scha­ef­fer, pub­lic education di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Fair and Open Test­ing.

“They may feel pressed to com­plete many of the longer pas­sages in the avail­able time, and quite of­ten, kids from other na­tions are trans­lat­ing in their head from the English text to their home lan­guage and then back to English to get the right an­swer,” he said.

The Col­lege Board said in a state­ment pro­vided to China Daily that the new SAT mea­sures skills es­sen­tial for col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness for all stu­dents “re­gard­less of ge­og­ra­phy”.

“The Col­lege Board has re­designed the SAT to make it more fo­cused, use­ful and clear for all stu­dents than ever be­fore, in part by elim­i­nat­ing the tricks and mys­ter­ies that pre­vi­ously left some stu­dents at a dis­ad­van­tage.

Among the big­gest changes to the test is the re­moval of ob­scure vo­cab­u­lary words that were an un­nec­es­sary bar­rier for some stu­dents, in­clud­ing those whose first lan­guage is not English.”

Col­lege Board also said that the new test will fea­ture pas­sages from Amer­i­can found­ing doc­u­ments, such as the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, the Bill of Rights and the Fed­er­al­ist Pa­pers.

“Other than waiv­ing a pa­tri­otic flag, there is no mea­sure­ment rea­son why read­ing pas­sages should be about US found­ing doc­u­ments rather than Dar­win or the UN found­ing doc­u­ments,” Scha­ef­fer said.

Den­nis Yim, an SAT pro­grams man­ager for Ka­plan Test Prep, said the changes will al­ter who does well on the test, mak­ing it harder for slower read­ers, and those who strug­gle with English as a se­cond lan­guage.

It could im­pact stu­dents who usu­ally per­form well on the math sec­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that stu­dents should take an early look at the test and un­der­stand what those new chal­lenges will be — es­pe­cially, es­pe­cially on the math sec­tion,” Yim said.

“On the pre­vi­ous test, there were ques­tions that tested just your base­line knowl­edge, your abil­ity to use num­ber op­er­a­tions or set­ting up equa­tions. But now we’re talk­ing about a math test that yes, still is 30 per­cent word prob­lems, but we’re look­ing at word prob­lems that in­volve pretty in­tri­cate sce­nar­ios,” said Yim.

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