Write on Target

Over the summer, the College Board announced a major change in the SAT: replacement of the analogies section of the test by an essay written on site.

"It marks a major event in the history of standardized testing.”

That’s quite a compliment to the College Board, the nonprofit organization that owns the Scholastic Aptitude Test. But this praise for the new version of the SAT comes from Richard Atkinson, president of the University of California system, whose 170,000 students make it the largest user of the SAT. Atkinson had been so critical of the SAT that in 2000 he proposed dropping it as an admissions requirement.

So it’s obvious that market forces played a part in the College Board’s announcement in June that, as of March 2005, a new version of the SAT will require that high school students complete a hand-written essay in 25 minutes. The level of mathematical questions also will rise.

However, that said, the new standards promise tremendous advantages for both students and institutions of higher learning.

Success in college depends on mastering not only reading and mathematics skills but also on writing. And that is how it should be, considering that success in the workplace also can depend to a large degree on the ability to write well. In addition, some colleges require students to submit a personal essay with their applications for admission. It will be helpful to those colleges to be able to compare those essays with the ones submitted during a 25-minute period for the SAT.

Granted, there are some concerns about the ways test graders can evaluate essays objectively. And it’s a shame a higher cost comes with the improved test, up to $38. But all in all, it sends a worthwhile, timeless message to this nation’s high school students: Writing skills matter.

This editorial ran July 1, 2002, in the Morning Call. Reprinted with permission.

Editor’s note: Moravian College requires a writing sample as part of its admission requirements.

September 17, 2002

Write on Target
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