Ready your pencils.
This morning, across America, the redesigned version of the SAT — the standardized entrance exam widely used in college admissions — is being administered for the first time.
(The correct answer to our headline, therefore, is A … but under the redesigned test, there’s no penalty for guessing, so no worries if you got it wrong.)
Back in January, when the old version of the test was given by the College Board for the last time, our NPR Ed team explained the logic behind the update:
“… Cyndie Schmeiser, the chief of assessment at the College Board, says it was time to stop doing a few key things. Among them: asking students “the definitions of words that perhaps they crammed for the night before the test but may not use.”
“The new test, Schmeiser says, will include vocabulary, but within a reading passage. Less cramming, more context. Also, students can expect to find an increased emphasis on using evidence in a passage to back up answers.
“The College Board hopes the redesign will provide a more accurate measure of a student’s college and career readiness — a phrase made famous by advocates of the Common Core learning standards. Those standards, in reading and math, are now being used by the vast majority of states, and the SAT’s chief rival, the ACT, is surging in part because it was first to adapt to the core. Now the SAT is playing catch-up.”
There are changes to the scoring, too: the penalty for guessing has been dropped and the essay — which is optional — is now scored separately from the rest of the test. Writing and reading questions have been combined, and the top score for the test is once again 1600, not 2400.
In addition to putting vocabulary in context and requiring students to look for more textual evidence, the new test has changed the essay so students are analyzing a text, instead of writing based on an open-ended question. The College Board is also working to make math and reading questions simulate real-world situations more accurately.
Curious what that looks like? Want to work through some problems this morning, in solidarity with the nation’s high school students?
Here are a few sample questions in the new SAT format. (And for some blast-from-the-past questions, NPR Ed shared some questions from the SAT’s long history in January — check ’em out.)
Aaron is staying at a hotel that charges $99.95 per night plus tax for a room. A tax of 8% is applied to the room rate, and an additional onetime untaxed fee of $5.00 is charged by the hotel. Which of the following represents Aaron’s total charge, in dollars, for staying x nights?
A) (99.5 + 0.08x) + 5
B) 1.08(99.95x) + 5
C) 1.08(99.95x + 5)
D) 1.08(99.95 + 5)x
The scatterplot [Count of Manatees] shows counts of Florida manatees, a type of sea mammal, from 1991 to 2011. Based on the line of best fit to the data shown, which of the following values is closest to the average yearly increase in the number of manatees?
Calculator not permitted, no multiple choice:
If a^2 + 14a = 51 and a > 0, what is the value of a + 7?
This passage is adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974, as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives. In the passage, Jordan discusses how and when a United States president may be impeached, or charged with serious offenses, while in office. Jordan’s speech was delivered in the context of impeachment hearings against then president Richard M. Nixon.
Today, I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.
“Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?” “The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men.”* And that’s what we’re talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.
It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office. The Constitution doesn’t say that. The powers relating to impeachment are an essential check in the hands of the body of the legislature against and upon the encroachments of the executive. The division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge—the framers of this Constitution were very astute. They did not make the accusers and the judges…the same person.
We know the nature of impeachment. We’ve been talking about it a while now. It is chiefly designed for the President and his high ministers to somehow be called into account. It is designed to “bridle” the executive if he engages in excesses. “It is designed as a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men.”* The framers confided in the Congress the power, if need be, to remove the President in order to strike a delicate balance between a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical, and preservation of the independence of the executive.
The nature of impeachment: a narrowly channeled exception to the separation of powers maxim. The Federal Convention of 1787 said that. It limited impeachment to high crimes and misdemeanors, and discounted and opposed the term “maladministration.” “It is to be used only for great misdemeanors,” so it was said in the North Carolina ratification convention. And in the Virginia ratification convention: “We do not trust our liberty to a particular branch. We need one branch to check the other.”
…The North Carolina ratification convention: “No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity.” “Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.”* I do not mean political parties in that sense.
The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.”
Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do: appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems. So today we’re not being petty. We’re trying to be big, because the task we have before us is a big one.
*Jordan quotes from Federalist No. 65, an essay by Alexander Hamilton, published in 1788, on the powers of the United States Senate, including the power to decide cases of impeachment against a president of the United States.
The stance Jordan takes in the passage is best described as that of
A) an idealist setting forth principles.
B) an advocate seeking a compromise position.
C) an observer striving for neutrality.
E) a scholar researching a historical controversy.
The main rhetorical effect of the series of three phrases beginning in line 4 (“the diminution, the subversion, the destruction”) is to
A) convey with increasing intensity the seriousness of the threat Jordan sees to the Constitution.
B) clarify that Jordan believes the Constitution was first weakened, then sabotaged, then broken.
C) indicate that Jordan thinks the Constitution is prone to failure in three distinct ways.
D) propose a three-part agenda for rescuing the Constitution from the current crisis.
As used in line 32, “channeled” most nearly means
(Additional questions based on this passage available here.)
After reading each passage, choose the answer to each question that most effectively improves the quality of writing in the passage or that makes the passage conform to the conventions of standard written English.
A Life in Traffic
A subway system is expanded to provide service to a growing suburb. A bike‑sharing program is adopted to encourage nonmotorized transportation. [Q1] To alleviate rush hour traffic jams in a congested downtown area, stoplight timing is coordinated. When any one of these changes [Q2] occur, it is likely the result of careful analysis conducted by transportation planners.
The work of transportation planners generally includes evaluating current transportation needs, assessing the effectiveness of existing facilities, and improving those facilities or [Q3] they design new ones. …
[Based on “Q1” sentence in bold:] Which choice best maintains the sentence pattern already established in the paragraph?
A) NO CHANGE
B) Coordinating stoplight timing can help alleviate rush hour traffic jams in a congested downtown area.
C) Stoplight timing is coordinated to alleviate rush hour traffic jams in a congested downtown area.
D) In a congested downtown area, stoplight timing is coordinated to alleviate rush hour traffic jams.
[Based on “Q2” section in bold italics:]
Select an Answer
A) NO CHANGE
B) occur, they are
C) occurs, they are
D) occurs, it is
[Based on Q3 section in italics:]
Select an Answer
A) NO CHANGE
B) to design
(Full passage and additional questions available here.)
SAT questions copyright 2016 by The College Board. www.collegeboard.org. Reproduced with permission.
Answers (explanations at links):
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