Posted on November 22, 2004

UC to Test Out New SAT Exam

Daily Californian (Berkeley), Nov. 10

With the New SAT slated for release in March, UC is fine-tuning its admissions policies for incoming students in time for next year’s application rush.

The New SAT — which includes a new essay segment, extra reading comprehension and advanced math questions, while getting rid of analogies and quantitative comparisons — will be the litmus test for all students vying for entrance into UC in Fall 2006.

The transformation is an attempt to align the test with what students are learning in high school and college, said Sandra Riley, spokesperson for College Board, who developed the test.

The revamped SAT aims to ensure fairness in content and tone for all students, Riley said.

UC administrators are optimistic that the new test will even out the disproportionately low scores of minority students on the original SAT by basing the exam on information taught in class rather test-prep strategies.

“There were real correlations between the SAT I and ethnic group performance and socioeconomic standards,” said George Blumenthal, chair of the Academic Senate. “It sure didn’t look like a level playing field.”

Blumenthal said he hopes the New SAT will boost enrollment of underrepresented minorities, which has plummeted in recent years.

“My hope is that the new test will improve eligibility of certain ethnic and socioeconomic groups,” he said. “I hope it allows access.”

But some administrators said minority student enrollment in UC will not change dramatically.

“It moves closer to being a subject-based test . . . so that levels the playing field a bit, but it won’t affect minority enrollment too much,” said Richard Black, assistant vice chancellor for admissions at UC Berkeley.

With the New SAT and the UC Board of Regents’ decision to raise the GPA minimum for UC eligibility, administrators will recalibrate admissions standards, including a new formula to correspond GPA to SAT scores, Black said.

Administrators will also retire the SAT II writing test, instead relying on the new essay section and only requiring two SAT II tests, Black said.

Some majors may also have extra admissions tests, such as an advanced math exam for intended engineers, Black said.

Next week, Educational Testing Services will unveil the Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment, a new standardized test designed to gauge computer literacy among college students. However, UC is not sure how or if they will use the test.

UC admissions officials, however, say they are very clear on what they are looking for the New SAT to prove.

While the original SAT measure general intellectual aptitude, exams like the SAT II and ACT measure mastery of the high school curriculum, said Michael Brown, chair of the UC Academic Senate Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools.

“Achievement tests reinforce this message: that students who take challenging courses and work hard will see their effort pay off not only in good grades, but also in high scores on tests,” he said.

In 2001, armed with similar ideas, then-UC President Richard Atkinson spoke out against the SAT I, saying that the test was not fair for all students, and threatened that UC would either refuse to accept the old SAT or develop an entirely new test instead.

“It was a radical proposal because the SAT dominates part of every student’s life,” Blumenthal said.

College Board gave in and began the overhaul that will be released in March.

“California is 15 percent of the country, even more in terms of university decisions,” Blumenthal said. “College Board is no dummy. They had to change with the times.”

Now, UC admissions officials are waiting for the first group of applicants weaned off the SAT I to apply.

“The rubber is going to hit the road,” Blumenthal said. “The results may be different than we expect. We might decide that the exams may or may not meet our needs.”