Board Proposes Changes To SAT I

Reforms would take effect in 2005

In a blow to millions of analogy-crunching high school students, the College Board recently proposed discontinuing the analogy section and adding a writing test to the SAT I exam.

The math section may also be made tougher, according to trustees of the College Board, which owns the SAT I.

College Board trustees will vote on the potential changes at their proposed June meeting. If they are approved, the high school class of 2006 would be the first to take the revised test.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, who is a newly-appointed College Board trustee, said the initial reaction to the proposed changes has been positive.

“This sends a clear message to students that perfecting their writing skills is important,” he said. He added that he is not clear exactly what the changes will entail, calling the revisions to the exam a “work in progress.”


Fitzsimmons said the changes would benefit the international applicants to American colleges, as well as American high school students for whom English is not a first language.

In the current SAT I test, he said, the analogies require test-takers to have more than just rote memorization of vocabulary, which would put non-native English speakers at a significant disadvantage.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said that without the analogies, the critical reading section of the test could be given more importance.

“Critical reading is something you don’t learn from tutoring courses or test prep,” said Caperton. “What you learn in school is the most important part of that.”

The College Board’s current proposals come after many colleges have recently expressed reservations about how well the SAT I predicts a student’s college performance.

Nearly 300 national colleges and universities no longer require applicants to take the SAT or other standardized aptitude tests.

The SATs biggest detractor is the 178,000 student-strong University of California.

Last year, University of California President Richard C. Atkinson recommended that the university system drop the test and develop an achievement test to help guide its admissions process instead. Other college presidents also echoed his criticism, pressing the College Board to make changes in the test.

Earlier this year, a faculty committee at the University of California endorsed Atkinson’s proposal. The university’s governing board could vote to drop the SAT I at its July meeting at the earliest.

Fitzsimmons said while he was not sure whether the proposed changes would be good indicators of college success, he hoped the changes would be beneficial for students in the long run.

“I hope the new test is at least as challenging as the current one, and that it encourages students to further develop writing and mathematical skills to become great scholars,” Fitzsimmons said.

The last time the SAT I was substantially changed was in 1993, when College Board officials allowed students to use calculators on the math section. Officials also altered the verbal section by dropping a multiple-choice writing test and a test of antonyms.

—Staff writer Ravi P. Agrawal can be reached at