Univ. unsure of new SAT

University officials hailed the class of 2009 as the most “academically prepared” in GW’s history, but a new Scholastic Achievement Test, may make it harder for administrators to judge the merits of next year’s incoming freshmen.

The new SAT complete with an essay-writing section, Algebra II math questions and more critical reading passages, was introduced to high schools around the country last March in an effort to “emphasize college success skills,” according to a 2002 news release from the College Board, the national organization that publishes the SAT. But GW’s admissions office will not consider scores from the new writing section in this year’s batch of applications.

Kathryn Napper, GW’s director of admissions, said the University does not yet know enough about the essay section to be able to use it as a factor in admissions for the class of 2010. Like the SAT II Writing Subject Test, the SAT writing scores will only benefit applicants.

“It could help if it was a decent score, but I don’t see it being detrimental to the student,” Napper said, adding that students’ high school transcripts are more important than SAT scores. Sixty-five percent of this year’s incoming freshmen were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

The high school graduating class of 2006 had the option of taking both the new and old SAT exams, and GW will accept both versions of the test from this year’s high school applicants. Napper said the University will only consider students’ highest verbal and math scores, but will still look at applicants’ writing scores in an effort to determine whether to consider the new section in next year’s admission standards.

“The biggest predictor of success in college is the courses they took in high school and how well they did,” she said. “(The SAT) is an additional piece of information.”

High school students and guidance counselors across the country are having trouble gauging college admission standards with the onset of the new SATs that are scored out of 2,400 possible points. Universities currently only publish the range of scores of this year’s incoming freshmen, who were required to take the old SAT exam based on a 1,600 point scale.

“It’s kind of blind admissions right now,” said Susan O’Brien, the SAT coordinator at Damascus High School in Damascus, Md. “The colleges haven’t set any standards yet, so the kids should apply to any college.”

GW’s class of 2009, which took the older version of the test featuring multiple-choice questions on verbal and reading comprehension and mathematical skills, scored an average of 1290 points on the SAT. The new test, which runs three hours and 45 minutes long, is scored in three parts worth 800 points each. It no longer features analogy questions in the test’s verbal section.

O’Brien said GW isn’t the only school that has decided not to factor writing scores into its admission standards this year. The College Board doesn’t recommend that colleges consider students’ writing score until the organization can establish a baseline score in 2007.

But Boston University’s director of media relations Colin Riley said BU will consider the new writing portion for this year’s college applicants, and will give it equal wait to the test’s verbal and math sections.

“It is important for us to know someone’s ability to communicate in writing,” he said, adding that the school previously looked at students’ SAT II writing scores.

Marcus, a senior at the School Without Walls High School who declined to give his last name, took both versions of the SATs, but said he can’t figure out which test he scored higher on.

“I wouldn’t know which is better because the scores changed,” he said.

Nick Montopoly, a junior at the School Without Walls, took the new SAT exam this year. Montopoly said he plans on applying to music schools that typically don’t place as much emphasis on SAT scores in their admission decisions.

“From what I’ve seen, (the new test) seems pretty heavily weighted towards reading and writing,” he said, “which I’m not so good at.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.