When they start taking the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Essay portions of the newly designed SAT, students will be now be required to show their potential to translate, synthesize, and make use of evidence identified in a number of resources. These will consist of informative graphics and multi-paragraph excerpts taken from literary works and other literary nonfiction, excerpts in the history, science, humanities, as well as passages from social studies and career-related sources. This is similar to the current AP US History course testing, for example, which requires analysis of DBQs — Document Based Questions — with various types of data and information among multiple sources. The ability to synthesize is a crucial aspect of critical thinking, and long overdue to appear on the SAT.
For each passage students read from the SAT Critical Reading Test, there’ll be at least one question asking them to choose a quote within the text that can support the answer they chose in response to the previous question. Some will be combined with educational graphics, and the student will be requested to incorporate the details presented through each so they can get the best answer possible.
The questions for the SAT Writing and Reading Tests will request evaluation of a series of paragraphs to ensure that they are grammatically and substantively accurate. There are also questions wherein students will be required to decipher graphics and modify the associated passages so that they precisely express the information and facts in the graphics. The attention to detail and nuance of language will be key here, and likely to pose challenges for many students today, who live in a “right-click” world of an instant thesaurus, where all words seemingly convey identical meaning.
Interestingly, according to an LA Times article dated just this week (August 30, 2014) some in China are not pleased. Author Kelly Yang argues in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, that the SAT’s new focus on civil liberties may “change the mind-set and world view of an entire generation of Chinese youth.”
For those of us paying attention to the declines in international academic ranking among America’s students, it comes as little surprise that the battlefield is shifting from purely economic (all that foreign currency comprised hefty tuitions paid by the 235,000 Chinese students enrolled in American universities in 2013) to ideological. The tensions are inescapable in an expanding marketplace where young adults from all over the globe, and very diverse cultures, compete for top jobs.
“If the new SAT succeeds, it will be the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students every year, not through a popular television show or a politician’s speaking tour, but through what the Chinese care about most — exams,” Yang wrote.
Read more about this controversy here:
Stay tuned tomorrow for SAT Change #3 … and find out why THAT is also creating controversy … this time among some English teachers.