Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The New SAT Explained

For parents who took the SAT 30 years ago, the new “perfect score” of 2400 may seem confusing. The SAT used to be comprised of two sections: critical reading, commonly called the verbal section, and mathematics. Each section yielded a range of scores from 200 to 800. This meant a “perfect score” on the SAT was a 1600 for many decades.

In 2005, a new section was added to the test. Taken from what was once the SAT II exam, the writing section is divided into short answer and essay portions. The section is additionally now worth anywhere from 200 to 800 points.

Today, the SAT is longer than it used to be. The critical reading portion is broken into sections totaling 70 minutes. Mathematics also totals 70 minutes. The writing portion of the exam is only allotted 60 minutes.

Once common area of confusion is how this portion of the exam is scored. It is hand-graded by a board of graders who compare the answers to others given that day. The answers are compared in areas such as logic, organization and strength of thesis. Smaller errors such as grammar and spelling are not graded, although usage and vocabulary should be appropriate. The graders will compare all the essays submitted and give the best essays highest scores. This means the same essay may be assessed at a different level on two different days.

While this may seem unfair, the SAT score has always been a comparative score. Depending on the average score received in a particular day, you may generate a different score for the same number of right answers. This is because the test questions vary tremendously. To protect a student from losing points because a particular test was harder than another, all students are graded on a scale compared to individuals taking the same test.

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