NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Made Easier

September 3, 1997

Education specialists are concerned that national testing run by the nation's educational establishment might turn out to be a meaningless reform. As an example of how testing can lose its ability to measure learning, they point to the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT).

The SATs were "recentered" in 1996. Everyone's test scores went up about 100 points. And it's easier than before.

  • It's now possible to miss five questions and get a "perfect" score of 1600.
  • Before recentering, 25 students at most made perfect scores, but now as many as 2,500 could.
  • Students can use calculators on the math test.
  • And the antonym test, one of the more difficult sections of the verbal test, has been dropped in favor of a less taxing "vocabulary in context" test.

While educators say the SAT was never supposed to be the answer to all questions about student ability, it was a useful tool to see through grade inflation and slipping standards at the nation's high schools.

  • Since 1987, the percentage of students with A-minus or better grade point averages has gone from 28 percent to 37 percent.
  • SAT scores for the same period have fallen, however, suggesting that grades were being inflated.

But those administering the SAT, experts contend, gave in to those same pressures to raise scores -- the same pressures anyone devising a national test would face. They argue that standards and tests are only reliable if they are genuine.

Source: Editorial, "National Testing Is No Magic Bullet," Investor's Business Daily, September 3, 1997.


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