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SAT changes affect Notre Dame

Teresa Fralish | Wednesday, November 5, 2003

The recently-announced sweeping changes to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) will affect undergraduate admissions at Notre Dame, University officials said.

The College Board, which administers the test., announced in June 2002 that a new writing section will be added to the the traditional math and verbal sections of the test, raising the maximum possible score from 1600 to 2400. The first revised SAT will be administered in March 2005.

“We are going to start to do some studies and then track the first class [of students that takes the test],” said Bob Mundy, director of admissions operations.

The writing section will ask test takers to revise grammatical errors in paragraphs and to write a short essay from a topic prompt.

Analogies will be deleted from the verbal section and abstract math reasoning questions will be replaced by questions covering Algebra II material never before included on the exam.

Mundy said he the felt the current SAT did not have any major problems, and the University would not make any changes to it admissions policies or process until it evaluated the new SAT for four or five years.

“I think the current SAT has been helpful,” Munday said. “The new one may be better. It has the potential to be better.”

The SAT has typically been used by college admissions boards to predict freshman grades, and subsequently whether an applicant has the potential to succeed at a given college. Because the vast majority of Notre Dame applicants could be successful at the University, Mundy said proposed changes would not affect Notre Dame as much as other universities, where the quality of the applicants is more varied.

The SAT test has long been a subject of criticism for college administrators. In February 2001, Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California system, recommended that the University no longer accept the SAT for admission purposes until it became more of an achievement-based test.

In general, Mundy said the SAT did not have any major problems, and the University would not consider accepting only the ACT, as Atkinson proposed.

“I think we’ve got a pretty reliable predictor [of applicants’ performance] right now,” Mundy said.

Though a revised SAT has been under development for a number of years, such changes as those proposed by Atkinson would have a huge financial impact on the College Board.

Because girls generally perform higher on writing exams and boys do better on abstract reasoning questions, the new test could favor girls over boys.

Traditionally, the SAT tested how well students could think and reason, rather than how many facts they had learned in school, which marks a shift for the exam from an aptitude-based test to an achievement-based test. Officials at the College Board say they are attempting to influence what skills and subjects high schools teach their students and how they teach them.

Because of this change, however, the new SAT could exacerbate the gap between scores for whites and minority students, who often attend poorer quality schools.

Mundy said the admissions office was concerned about such trends but did not anticipate that they would have a significant effect on minority admission at Notre Dame.

Mundy also noted that Notre Dame admissions counselors had been involved in College Board discussions on the SAT revisions. He attended the College Board’s meeting last fall and said that admissions director Dan Saracino was currently attending the College Board’s national conference.

Students who took the SAT last year said they thought the revisions could have mixed results, raising questions that have been a part of the national debate over SAT revisions.

Freshman Destinee Delemos said she wasn’t sorry to see the end of analogies but had concerns about how the new test might affect certain groups of applicants.

“I think [the changes] put certain students at a disadvantage, but for me personally that would have made it a lot easier,” she said.

Freshman Dan Nickele said his strengths were math and science, and disagreed with the addition of the writing section – something that he finds difficult.

“That definitely would have been something I wouldn’t have liked. From my perspective, they’re bad changes,” he said.