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Thousands of Long Island high school students take revamped PSAT exam

Thousands of Long Island high school students emerged Wednesday from taking a redesigned version of the PSAT pre-college test, with many reporting that the exam's longer format left them tired.

The two-hour, 45-minute test is 35 minutes longer than the version it replaced. The revamped test has 139 questions -- 14 more than the old exam.

Lianna Golden, 16, a junior in the East Williston district, said she had a particular problem focusing on an hourlong reading section.

"I came out of the test and everything was kind of blurry," Golden said. She added that she found revised math problems more challenging to solve.

In the Eastport-South Manor district, teenagers said they had similar experiences.

"Honestly, I'm tired," said Douglas Nelson, 15, a sophomore in that system. "Not like I'm going to fall asleep, but I'm not looking forward to going to trigonometry this afternoon."

Still, the majority of test-takers interviewed seemed to take the new assessment in stride.

"We've had tests like that before in the Regents," said Ryan O'Reilly, 16, a junior and class president at Eastport-South Manor Junior Senior High School. "So it wasn't anything we weren't expecting."

In Rockville Centre, officials at the district's South Side High School postponed the PSAT for hundreds of students because of a local electrical power failure. John Murphy, the school's principal, said the exam was rescheduled for Oct. 28, the contingency date set by Manhattan-based College Board, the test's sponsor.

The PSAT was administered last year to 3.8 million students, including more than 266,000 in New York State. College Board describes it as the nation's largest pre-college assessment.

As a warmup for the SAT college-admissions exam, which also has been revised, the Preliminary SAT is taken seriously by students and school officials alike. The first administration of the redesigned SAT comes up on March 5 and represents the biggest change in that test in a decade.

Scores from the PSAT also are used in determining students' eligibility for more than $32 million in college scholarships distributed by the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Changes in both tests include a greater reliance on nonfiction reading passages and on math exercises that require analytical problem-solving.

Scoring on the PSAT also has changed.

Along with traditional scores for reading, writing and math, there will be new ones covering students' abilities to analyze issues in science and history. In addition, there will be subscores for specific skills including "command of evidence" in reading and "data analysis" in math.

College Board officials said the new score structure is intended to provide "an enhanced profile of students' skills and understandings."

Opponents of standardized testing were not impressed.

Bob Schaeffer, a testing analyst long critical of the PSAT and SAT, released a statement Wednesday contending that College Board's creation of 15 separate scores and subscores for the PSAT constitutes "false precision."

"There is no evidence, however, that the test is a more accurate or fairer predictor of undergraduate success" in college, wrote Schaeffer, who is public education director for FairTest, a Boston-based advocacy group.


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