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Students, Admissions Officers Differ Over Planned SAT Changes

College-admissions officers are more excited about certain aspects of the forthcoming SAT redesign than high school students, based on survey results released this week by by Kaplan Test Prep.

Kaplan polled admissions officers from more than 400 of the nation's top college and universities and 700 high school students (mostly juniors) who took a Kaplan SAT course last summer to see how they felt about the changes coming to the college-entrance exam.

In March, the College Board announced details of its plans to revamp the exam, saying it would be more "focused" and useful." For instance, it will emphasize justifying answers with textual evidence, it would shun "obscure" SAT words, and cover fewer math concepts in greater depth. Also, with the new exam, the College Board will not penalize students for wrong answers (but only give credit for correct ones), it will prohibit calculators for certain questions, and offer the exam on computer in some locations.

In April, the College Board provided sample questions to the revised SAT, scheduled to be first administered in the spring of 2016.

When it comes to the option of taking a computer-based test, 82 percent of college admissions officers' surveyed supported that move while just 36 percent felt the same, according to the Kaplan survey. Students polled said they were worried about potential technical difficulties, the toll of looking at a computer screen for four hours, and not being able to do "scratch work" when solving math problems.

(All SAT exams are now paper and pencil. The rival ACT began piloting computer-based testing in the spring.)

Another change in the works for the SAT involves using a calculator. Test takers now can use a calculator on the SAT, but in the spring of 2016 it not be allowed for about one-third of the nearly 60 questions. While 71 percent of admissions officers support the change, just 47 percent of students were in favor.

Both admissions professionals (70 percent) and high school students (73 percent) support the elimination of penalties for wrong answers. They also agree on dropping the SAT section on fill-in-the-blank vocabulary—85 percent of students and 88 percent of admission officers support the change. The College Board will replace that section with questions using vocabulary in context and revising and editing passages.

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