Finally, the long awaited debut of the redesigned SAT took place on March 5th to mixed reviews — not with respect to the quality of the test, but to its difficulty.
Multiple Versions: There were confirmed multiple versions of the test given on March 5th. Students sharing their test-day experience with fellow students were surprised to find that some of their colleagues had taken a completely different test. Math questions and reading passages did not match up, which left some students baffled and bewildered. Of course, it is easy to understand why this would be. The College Board needs to pretest as many questions as possible in order to satiate the appetites of students hungry for more practice materials than are currently available.
Now the details:
Most students indicated that the no-calculator Math section was the most difficult. Many said it was difficult or “impossible” to finish. In particular, some students said that questions involving complex numbers and the equation of a circle caught them by surprise. In addition, the tests had trigonometry questions, questions involving complex numbers, and even one involving an obscure 7-24-25 Pythagorean triple.
As for the Reading section, students who had a passage about lava found that to be the most difficult and esoteric. Some students had a set of paired passages comparing viewpoints of Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. No surprise there. Other passages were about a miser who loved gold, why birds fly in a “V” formation, a drug that is used to increase the Flu vaccine’s effectiveness, the career of a “comic book lady,” and the connection between body fat and body temperature regulation in the savannas.
Most students felt that the Writing section (grammar) was easy. We’ll have to wait until the jury comes back on May 10th before we can confirm their belief.
As for the analytical essay, at least some students had a source text taken from an article written by E. J. Dionne, Jr. entitled: A Call for National Service. The full article was originally published in the Washington Post in 2013.
And YES there was an experimental section for some students. There is an amusing anecdote being shared by students in several states. In these instances, the proctor began to read a script indicating they would now be taking a 20-minute “variable” section – only to realize that this group was taking the optional essay instead. So, clearly some proctors were somewhat confused by the instructions. It also clarifies that the College Board clearly did have an experimental section up its sleeve, despite some indications to the contrary, and even outright denials.
This confusion manifested itself in proctors giving wrong directions and for at least for one local school, test actually being collected and nullified!
As is always the case, opinions varied on the difficulty, and many students were left wondering how the new test would be scaled, and most hoped that the scale would be lenient in the sections that gave them the most trouble. Virtually all students expressed concern that they would not have their scores until after the May SAT date had already passed.
So, now we wait and brace for May 10, the day that scores are released. In the meantime, many March test takers are already planning to repeat the test in May and/or June. Best of luck to all students, and congratulations on being the first group ever to take the new, redesigned SAT.