WASHINGTON – The new SAT is not much better or worse at predicting a student's success in college than the old one,according to the first validity study of the test,released Tuesday.
The new test,introduced in 2005,added a third section – a writing test – and made changes to the original math and verbal sections,including removing analogies questions and adding more advanced math.
“The results show that the changes made to the SAT did not substantially change how predictive the test is of first-year college performance,” the study said.
Executives of the College Board – which puts out the test – said the data show that the standardized test continues to be a reliable predictor of a college freshman's grades. However,critics say the added length and cost is not worth the slight improvement in predictability. The new test takes three hours and 45 minutes,while the old one took three hours. The price went up from about $29 to $45.
“The College Board set out to create a test that they said would be better and more fair,” said Jesse Mermell,executive director of FairTest,a group that advocates fairness in standardized testing. “They've failed miserably at that.”
The study found that,of the three sections,the new writing portion is the best method of predicting a student's success in college.
College Board President Gaston Caperton said the writing section is important because all college students have to use writing skills on a regular basis.
“Now that the results are in,it is clear that the writing portion has tremendous value,” he said.
Many colleges and universities opted to wait for this study before deciding whether to consider the new writing portion into college admissions decisions.
Mabel G. Freeman,assistant vice president of undergraduate admissions at Ohio State University,said OSU has required applicants to submit a writing score for the past two years only for research purposes.
She said the university considers that the study found the writing portion to be the most predictive of the three an important find and will begin to consider the writing score when reviewing applicants next year.
“It will be one more piece of information that we have about an applicant,” she said.
Freeman and Arizona State University Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Martha Byrd said their schools look at SAT and ACT scores as well as high school performance when admitting students.
The study correlated the grades of 151,316 college freshmen with different combinations of their high school grades and one or more sections of the SAT. A perfect correlation would be 1.0,zero would be no correlation and minus 1.0 is a perfect negative correlation. A “large correlation” is anything over 0.5. The highest score was 0.62,which combined high school grades and all three sections of the SAT. Not far behind was a 0.61 correlation among high school grades and the math and critical reading section of the test. The lowest correlation was the SAT math test alone,at 0.47,which is considered a “medium correlation.”
The College Board study recommended that colleges look at the combination of high school grades and SAT scores for admissions decisions,saying that is the best way to predict success during a student's freshman year.