Testing grammar and writing has caused the College Board all kinds of headaches over the last decade. Everything seemed peachy back when colleges looked at the SAT II Writing Test as proof of English language proficiency. But once the College Board essentially stapled that test to the SAT in 2005, in large part to appease those selfsame colleges, things went south. Not only did the last SAT revision open the door for the rise of the ACT, but even the SAT Subject Tests have lost their luster.
Nonetheless, the assessment of grammar adds value to a college entrance exam. Rather than give up on testing this content, the College Board is learning from the mistakes of the past by lashing this section more tightly to the exam as a whole. No longer can colleges marginalize the grammar portion of the SAT when it is part of the larger Evidence-Based Reading and Writing!
This new SAT Writing and Language Test requires students to demonstrate proficiency with the standards of the conventions of standard written English by revising and editing a range of passages. Students are expected to identify and revise both mechanical and rhetorical errors. While this passage-based approach may be new to the SAT, anyone who has seen the ACT English section knows exactly what this will look like. In fact, many test takers will do a double-take trying to figure out which exam they are taking; the two tests are THAT similar.
In the College Board’s defense, their spin on this proven formula for assessing grammar and writing includes new SAT themes like text complexity, informational graphics, and cross-test scores in history and science. Yes, you will find graphs on this Writing test.
(From Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT)
WHAT’S THE SAME?
This section still tests conventions of standard written English including grammar, usage, punctuation, and rhetoric.
The new SAT Writing Test abandons single-sentence question types in favor of a passage-based structure. The test also goes well beyond grammar and usage to test development, organization, and effective language use.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
This section is significantly transformed from the previous SAT Writing Test with its emphasis on single-sentence grammar questions. However, students will hardly be surprised by the new Writing Test since it looks almost exactly like the ACT English Test! What differentiates the two is the SAT’s inclusion of informational graphics and cross-test scores.