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College Board: SAT to get another makeover

Sponsors of the SAT announced

Sponsors of the SAT announced "ambitious" plans to revamp the three-hour, 45-minute exam that includes sections in reading, math and writing. Credit: Getty Images

The college-entrance exam most often taken by Long Island students and others in the Northeast is due for its second major makeover in eight years.

SAT sponsors this week announced "ambitious" plans to revamp the three-hour, 45-minute exam that includes sections in reading, math and writing. The test is taken each year by more than 1.6 million high school students and, along with the ACT, is one of the nation's two major standardized tests for admission to college undergraduate programs.

The announcement came in a letter to schools and colleges from David Coleman, president of the Manhattan-based College Board, the private nonprofit that sponsors the SAT. Coleman, who is best known as an architect of Common Core curriculum standards adopted by New York and 44 other states, took over leadership of College Board in October.

Coleman's letter, dated Monday, said revisions in coming months would focus on a core set of knowledge and skills for students and their readiness for college, while also meeting the changing needs of college admissions officers.

The letter provided few specifics on planned changes and no timetable for completion.

The College Board's new president has criticized specific aspects of the SAT, including a 25-minute essay requirement added to the exam in 2005.

Coleman, 43, a former Rhodes scholar, endorsed the general idea of an essay during a November conference at the Brookings Institution. He added, however, that he was troubled by the SAT's requirement that students write opinion pieces without supporting evidence.

He went on to suggest that the SAT relies too much on vocabulary words that are rarely used, even in academic discussions.

"My job is not to protect SAT," he said then.

Some academic experts have suggested that new multistate exams, which are to be phased in starting in 2014-15, eventually could replace private national tests such as the SAT. Others have noted that the SAT faces increasing competition from the ACT, which is heavily used in the South and the West, and that the SAT's essay section has proved unpopular with many students.

Bob Schaeffer, public education director for FairTest, a Boston-area advocacy group critical of the SAT, said Wednesday that College Board's announcement amounted to "recognition that the revamping of the test just eight years ago was a failure, rejected by the marketplace."

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