SAT Vocabulary Section Will Become Less Obscure, More Relevant, So We Hope You Can Define 'Emoji'
The bane of every American high school student's existence, the SAT, is undergoing yet another makeover. And this time, their change is a strange one: The College Board wants to make the SAT vocabulary section more useful by including more "relevant" words in their infamous critical reading section. That's right: The test that plays a major role in collegiate futures is once more being revamped by the College Board, otherwise known as the worst nightmare of many high school juniors (and a few overachieving sophomores) preparing their academic resumes for college applications.
Previous changes dealt with the number of subjects included on the test or the scoring method, but this change is meant to reflect the current day and age of the test-takers, requiring them to learn the heightened vernacular that they may use in their future. According to the College Board, these latest redesigns are intended to make the standardized test two years from now "more useful than ever before."
Gone will be the particularly archaic and otherwise useless words (though they were fun to throw around after spending countless hours memorizing them). The College Board finally seems to be realizing that we don't use words like defenestration (throwing something out a window), perspicacity (shrewdness or perceptiveness), or nadir (the opposite of zenith, which is to say, a highpoint) in everyday conversation.
Currently, the three-hour and 45-minute long test consists of nine scored sections and one experimental section, which does not affect the score. There are three mathematics sections, which contain both multiple choice and self-generated answers about algebra, geometry, statistics, and numbers and operations, three writing sections, comprised of one essay and two multiple choice sections testing grammar, and finally, three critical reading sections.
But now, the test will last three hours, with an optional 50-minute essay, and instead of forcing teens to memorize obscure words, they will be asked to identify their meaning in context. This means that they will no longer have to give dictionary definitions, but rather provide an interpretation of the word's usage. The College Board gives the following example on their website: "The coming decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions..." and then asks what "intense" means in the passage. Answer choices include emotional, concentrated, brilliant, and determined.
This is considerably different from how the vocabulary section was previously set up, which used a fill-in-the-blank method. Test-takers would be given a sentence: "________ by nature, Jones spoke very little even to his own family members." Answer choices would then include garrulous, taciturn, arrogant, and gregarious.
The changes clearly present a stronger focus on context clues and logical reasoning, rather than a dependence on rote memorization, which is why the CollegeBoard also believes that this change will eliminate the need for flashcards.
Let's take a walk down memory lane and examine the evolution of the SAT. We might quiz you at the end, so you better have your flashcards, erm, some other memory device ready.
1920s — The birth of the bane
Back then, the SAT actually stood for something. And not just in principle. When it was first introduced as a college entrance exam, the SAT stood for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and it was an essay-only test administered to high school students across the country as a single, standardized measure of skill and success.
1926 — Multiple choice is introduced
A few years after its inception, the SAT really began serving its modern-day purpose of measuring how well students learned during high school and how capable they were of learning after high school. Enter the multiple choice exam.
1941 — Scores were normalized
This means that how well you do on the SAT today actually depends on how well your peers did. This is why the SAT isn't scored out of a simple 100-point scale. Rather, the College Board has devised a complex grading scale that allows fair scoring both across different versions of the test (you wouldn't want people spreading answers, now would you?) and for various test-takers.
1965 — The Civil Rights Era
More than a decade after the Brown v. Board decision did away with the notion of "separate but equal," the SAT allowed black students to take the SAT as well.
1977 — Multiple Chances to take the SAT
Today, retaking the SAT is a common occurrence among students vying for the highest possible score. But until 1977, this was not an option. In the late 70's, however, the CollegeBoard decided to allow students six chances a year to defeat the dreaded SAT.
1990s — The SAT means nothing
Well, the letters of it don't. In 1990, the previous acronym of "Scholastic Aptitude Test" was deemed insensitive and inaccurate, as the SAT certainly is not a particularly meaningful measure of intelligence. "Aptitude" was changed to "Assessment," but three years later, the College Board decided that it was just too much trouble to have three letters that meant something. Today, SAT stands for absolutely nothing.
2005 — An essay makes for 2400
The penultimate change (for now) to the SAT was probably the most major — the addition of the essay to the SAT gave it an 800-point boost, making the perfect score a 2400, up from 1600 in years past. However, the College Board announced in March that the SAT would return to the 1600 scale, making the essay optional.
While the test has continued to change, it seems that high schoolers attitudes toward the test will not.