Measures verbal and mathematical abilities and achievement in specific subject areas.
The SAT, known until 1997 as the Scholastic Assessment Test and prior to that as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, changed its name and format in March 1994. (SAT tests are also referred to informally as College Entrance Examination Boards or College Boards.) The SAT is still a series of group-administered tests of verbal and mathematical abilities as well as achievement in a variety of subject areas. It is offered on Saturday mornings seven months of the year at locations across the country and used by over 2,000 colleges and universities to aid in assessing a student's ability to do college-level work. Intended as a useful standard for comparing the abilities of students from widely different cultural backgrounds and types of schools, the test can also help students, their parents, and guidance counselors make decisions in the college application process. The two major components of the test are SAT I: Reasoning Test and SAT II: Subject Tests (formerly called Achievement Tests). SAT I—the part of the test that is most important and that all students take—is, as before, a three-hour multiple-choice test.
The Test of Standard Written English, which formerly comprised a half-hour section of the SAT, has been eliminated, and the new version consists of three verbal reasoning and three mathematical reasoning sections. However, not all of these are half-hour sections. For both the verbal and math components, two sections take 30 minutes, and the third takes only 15. This brings the total test time to 2-½ hours. The remaining half hour is devoted to an experimental section (now called the Equating section), which can be either a math or a verbal section and isn't counted in the students score (the catch is that he or she doesn't know which one is the Equating section while taking the test).
The Verbal Reasoning in the new SAT no longer contains antonym questions, and a greater emphasis has been placed on reading comprehension (now called Critical Reading), which, in some cases, requires the student to answer questions on two different passages instead of just one. As before, the Verbal Reasoning sections also include sentence completion and analogy questions. The Mathematical Reasoning sections consist of multiple-choice questions covering arithmetic, algebra, and geometry; quantitative comparison (which are also multiple choice); and a section of problems requiring students to come up with their own answers. Students are allowed (and encouraged) to use calculators for the math sections.
SAT II includes a variety of subject tests in English, foreign languages, math, history and social studies, and the sciences. SAT I and II cannot be taken on the same day. Raw SAT scores based on the number of correct answers minus a fraction of a point for each wrong answer (the "guessing penalty") are converted using a scale ranging from 200 to 800, with separate scores provided for the verbal and math sections (and for each subject test in SAT II). Scores are reported, about six weeks after the test date, to students and their high schools, and to colleges of their choice.
The SAT has been criticized on grounds of cultural and gender bias, charges that the revised version has attempted to respond to. The widespread use of test preparation courses and services for the SAT has also generated controversy, with detractors arguing that the test is unfair to economically disadvantaged students, who have limited access to coaching.
Crouse, James, and Dale Trusheim. The Case Against the SAT. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Hanford, George H. Life with the SAT: Assessing Our Young People and Our Times. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1991.
United States Congress. House Committee on the Judiciary. Sex and Race Differences on Standardized Tests: Oversight Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.
Wildemuth, Barbara M. ERIC Digests: Coaching for Tests. Princeton, NJ: ERIC Clearinghouse on Tests, Measurement, and Evaluation: Educational Testing Service, 1983.
Look Inside the SAT I: Test Prep from the Test Makers. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1994. (One videocassette)