How the New SAT essays are read

Nearly 1.4 million students have taken the New SAT tests in March, May and June 2005. Each essay was read, scored, and reported by two different professional readers, all high school or college teachers, under stringent requirements. Ninety-five percent of the essays were read, scored, and reported within the 16-day scoring window as expected.

College Board Vice President Jim Montoya stressed that readers are trained to score essays "holistically"; that is, they evaluate essays not by adding up (or taking off) points for organization, development, sentence structure, vocabulary, etc., but by judging the overall impression created by all of the elements of writing working together in an essay. "In that way, readers are able to evaluate very different types of essays with equal fairness," Montoya said. "Any essay that effectively blends insightful development, a smooth progression of ideas, and the skillful use of language will score very well, regardless of the approach the writer takes."

"The new SAT goes further than the old one in focusing on the twenty-first-century skills required for success in a more global economy," said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board. "The more advanced math, the greater focus on reading, and the new emphasis on writing will help promote the mastery of skills that our young people will need as we face increasing competition from other nations, including rapidly emerging ones. Developed reasoning skills and advanced literacy skills in both reading and writing are essential in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and digital."

Math and critical reading score means (537 and 519) for the spring 2005 administrations are consistent with SAT math and verbal means during the spring administrations from the past five years (533 and 519). The writing mean is slightly below the reading mean for this group of students (516 vs. 519). No historical data are available for the new writing test and no comparison can be made with past results. Thorough analyses of performance on the new SAT cannot be accomplished until August 2006, when the average scores for the first cohort of students who has taken the new SAT will be reported.

Source: College Board, September 2005

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