New SAT nothing to fret about

By Justin Boron

Nadine Boado said she's going to miss the demanding and sometimes feared analogies that once anchored the verbal section of the SAT.

"I'm kind of sad they took away the analogies because I was pretty good at those," she said.

The SAT staple has been replaced with a new writing section as part of the test's first overhaul in more than a decade.

As one of the high school students across the nation that will face a new version of the SAT, Boado, a Jonesboro Highs School junior, said she isn't too worried about changes like the addition of a writing section and the removal of the analogies section.

Others, however, may be a little more stressed, school officials say. For that reason, Clayton County Public Schools has been prepping the students for the new test, which will be first administered across the nation in March and has been extended 3 hours and 45 minutes to include two new sections made up of what was formerly know as the verbal portion of the test. Now, students will take a critical reading and writing section in addition to math.

In attempt to quell the anxiety coming out of many of the parents and students in the area, Ken Sanders, coordinator of school counseling, stresses that while the test has changed, its impact on college acceptance has not.

"Colleges are not putting more weight on (the test)," he said.

But they will have three scores with a maximum of 800 to look at.

College Board officials say the largest changes since 1994 will broaden the information available to colleges evaluating applications and better reflect what a student actually learns in high school.

However, critics have challenged the sincerity of the College Board's reason for the change and claimed the new test still has its problems with illustrating the skill set needed for college.

Harvard University graduate and SparkNotes author Ben Florman, 28, said the change was prompted by demands for a writing section from the university system of California, one of the heaviest users of the SAT for acceptance purposes.

The changes also didn't do much to improve the reliability of the SAT, he said.

"I still think this is a deeply flawed test," Florman said.

Although problems persist despite the changes, Florman said students shouldn't be any more weary of the test than in the past.

Calming the emotions of students worried about applying to college is one of the benefits of his book "The New SAT & PSAT Prep Book, he said.

Florman criticizes other preparatory programs for using scare tactics to get students to buy their books and practice tests.

"I felt, why make kids more nervous in order to make more money off them?" he said.

"The New SAT & PSAT" employs a conversational tone, sprinkling jokes in with the advice on approaching each section, he said.

For the new writing section, Florman talks about a "fast food" essay, which contains all of the components judges are looking for and is quick and easy to produce.

While the new essay section incorporates a degree of subjectivity into the test, it is still easy to master the skills needed to do well, he said.

"Certainly, you can prepare for this," Florman said.