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SAT essays now optional, effects on UF admissions undetermined

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Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014 1:00 am

Last week, the SAT announced major changes to its infamous test, and hopeful students are questioning how the changes will affect UF.

The main change to the test will occur in the writing portion. According to a news release from The College Board, the essay is now optional, and the entire test will only be worth 1,600 points, rather than the previous 2,400.

At UF, either SAT scores or ACT scores are required from applicants, said Chandra Mitchell, UF’s director of freshman and international admissions.

She said there is not yet enough information for UF to decide how to handle the newly optional essay in its admissions process.

However, she said the new SAT will not change the overall process of the way UF reviews applicants.

“SAT scores give us some solid information to include in our comprehensive review of applicants,” Mitchell said.

Catherine Wegner, an 18-year-old senior at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, was recently admitted to UF for the upcoming Summer semester. Even with the upcoming changes, she still doubts the SAT’s effectiveness.

“I do not believe the SAT accurately measures a student’s ability,” Wegner said. “The test will probably eventually become extinct.”

Further changes to the SAT include removing the penalty for answering questions incorrectly and a collaboration with Khan Academy for free online test preparation, which launches in Spring 2015, according to the news release.

William Hiss, the former dean of admissions at Bates College and the principal investigator of a new study on SAT and ACT scores, said the Khan Academy classes acknowledge the problems associated with the coaching industry but don’t necessarily solve them.

The SAT now offers four college application waivers for each eligible low-income student.

Hiss said this decision will bring a lot of economically disadvantaged students into universities across the nation who don’t submit their scores.

“I give them credit for trying to open up the access issue,” he said. “That is a nice small step that is perfectly reasonable.”

The College Board is also developing a curriculum for grades six to 12 that aligns with the tests it publishes. Hiss said he sees this as a conflict of interest.

“They’re not going to approve of a curriculum that can’t be easily measured by one of their tests,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 3/17/2014 under the headline "SAT essays now optional, effects on UF admissions undetermined"]

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