18 Apr 2014

SATs to Eliminate “Obscure” Words

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The New York Times reports that the College Board will be dumbing down the SAT exam one more time.

The College Board [this week] release[d] many details of its revised SAT, including sample questions and explanations of the research, goals and specifications behind them.

“We are committed to a clear and open SAT, and today is the first step in that commitment,” said Cyndie Schmeiser, the College Board’s chief of assessment, in a conference call on Monday, previewing the changes to be introduced in the spring of 2016.

She said the 211-page test specifications and supporting materials being shared publicly include “everything a student needs to know to walk into that test and not be surprised.”

One big change is in the vocabulary questions, which will no longer include obscure words. Instead, the focus will be on what the College Board calls “high utility” words that appear in many contexts, in many disciplines — often with shifting meanings — and they will be tested in context. For example, a question based on a passage about an artist who “vacated” from a tradition of landscape painting, asks whether it would be better to substitute the word “evacuated,” “departed” or “retired,” or to leave the sentence unchanged. (The right answer is “departed.”)

3 Feedbacks on "SATs to Eliminate “Obscure” Words"


While it is ever sad to witness the dumbing down of our culture, if your goal is to separate dumb from dumber, this sort of thing may be quite valid.

An anecdote (true). A recent GRADUATE from the University of Washington asked in all seriousness a meeting, “Where is Iowa?”

College Guru

This is something that I wanted them to do for a long time. Previously, it really didn’t make much sense when the questions they asked didn’t have any practical value.


Cyndie Schmeiser’s goal is to separate the dumb from the really, really dumb.


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