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Outdated SAT to get redesign

(MoneyWatch) The SAT, which was first rolled out in 1926, is getting a badly needed overhaul. 

This will be the first redesign for the college entrance exam since 2005. That's when the College Board, the education organization that oversees the test, eliminated the infamous analogy questions and added a writing exam.  

The group hasn't said exactly how the SAT will change, but clearly a revamp is long overdue. Last year, the rival ACT exam eclipsed the SAT as the most popular college standardized test for the first time. Higher education experts predicted change to the outdated test when the College Board tapped David Coleman to be its president last fall.

Coleman, who was intimately involved in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, has expressed interest in making sure that the SAT aligns with high school learning objectives and the skills and knowledge that students need to succeed in college. In a talk last year at the Brookings Institute, Coleman criticized aspects of the SAT test, which 1.66 million students took in 2012.

What needs improving

Three issues that the College Board should address in enhancing the SAT:

1. The SAT exam does not require students to include facts in their essay. If a student wrote that basketball player Kobe Bryant is President of the United States, he would not be penalized for making stuff up. The exam needs to better assess students' writing ability for college-level work.

2. The SAT test requires knowledge of vocabulary words that most test takers will never see again after turning in their test booklets. 

3. The test maker seems too eager to trip up students with tricky questions.

The announcement of the overhaul was made this week when College Board vice president Peter Kauffman sent the following email to all members of the nonprofit organization:

In the months ahead, the College Board will begin an effort in collaboration with its membership to redesign the SAT so that it better meets the needs of students, schools, and colleges at all levels.

We will develop an assessment that mirrors the work that students will do in college so that they will practice the work they need to do to complete college. An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.

Considering its current baggage, the new test can't come soon enough.

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