Will New Sat Be Harder? 1. Yes

2. No

3. Guess

November 07, 1990|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER - High school students already have deluged Emma Weishaar with questions about how much more difficult the Scholastic Aptitude Test -- the most widely used college entrance exam -- will be when some multiple-choice questions are eliminated in 1994.

Weishaar can give them an educated guess.

"I think it will be more difficult," said the head of the math department at North Carroll High School. "Multiple choice lends to multiple guess."

But like other Carroll educators, Weishaar has not seen details of the College Board trustees' revisions, which include allowing students to use calculators on some math problems and increasing the emphasis on reading comprehension.

In addition, the revised SAT, to be called SAT-I and introduced in spring 1994, will include optional essay questions for the more than 1 million high school students who take the exam each year. About 800 Carroll students take the SAT annually.

And without details, it also is difficult for educators to assess just how the changes will affect testing, test scores and the caliber of college-bound students.

"That's very, very, very difficult to answer," said Allan Butler, supervisor of Carroll's special programs and assessments. "I haven't seen anything from the College Board explaining their rationale. Until I do, it's very difficult to comment on that."

The SAT consists of 85 verbal and 60 math questions in two multiple-choice sections. Each section is worth 800 points, for a perfect score of 1,600. Carroll students have generally scored above 900, but fell below that number in 1990, puzzling county educators.

Larry L. Houser, Carroll's supervisor of mathematics, said the College Board changes, sought by educators for years, better reflect the real world.

"On some items, it's fine to allow students to use calculators because they are certainly used by mathematicians in the real world," Houser said.

He said he favored the elimination of some multiple-choice questions.

"Most problems that arise in the real world don't have multiple-choice answers," he said. "You have to come up with real answers. It sounds like the board is going in the right direction."

Michael Hoover, an English teacher at South Carroll High School, said an increased emphasis on reading comprehension may benefit students. He said there has been some criticism about some of the analogies on the 2 -hour exam.

But like his department head, Walter McWilliams, Hoover was unsure what the increased emphasis on reading means.

"I would want to know what the criteria would be -- what reading comprehension level would they gear the changes toward," he said.

The SAT, given in Westminster just last week, is just one component Western Maryland College officials review when considering applicants for admission. The college also looks at an applicant's performance in college prep courses and extracurricular activities.

WMC does not reject or accept students on the basis of SAT scores alone, Marty O'Connell, associate director of admission, has said in campus publications. Restructuring the test isn't likely to change that, a WMC spokesman said.

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