Examining New Standardized and College Board Test Changes

Stimulating critical thinking-Sophmore Lauren Farkas prepares for her Common Core math exam by reviewing curriculum material.  Photo taken by Celine Macura

Stimulating critical thinking-Sophmore Lauren Farkas prepares for her Common Core math exam by reviewing curriculum material.

Photo taken by Celine Macura

By Celine Macura

Students have been tossing away their flash cards, deleting their Quizlet accounts and forgetting mnemonics due to the new testing approach being adopted in high schools around the country. Doing well on many of the new standard tests like the updated Advanced Placement (AP), SAT, and Common Core exams no longer require mass memorization tactics because of the exams’ more analytical formats.

Taking a closer look into students’ success, standardized test creators realized that many of their questions were requiring the wrong approach: rote memorization. The new exams instead urge students to use analytical tactics, encouraging the development of skills necessary in college and the workforce.

According to the College Board’s website, its goal is to focus high school classes “on the knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success” in addition to encouraging “a balance between breadth of content coverage and depth of understanding.” College Board test-makers have already redesigned many of their exams like the SAT and AP U.S., European, and World History exams and anticipate more changes over the next few years.

On the redesigned AP U.S. and European History exams, each multiple choice question requires students to respond to a stimulus in the form of a speech, painting, political cartoon, or other engaging source. The College Board is currently finalizing more changes to the AP World History exam so that it will consist entirely of stimulus-based multiple choice questions by 2017. A proposed revision of the AP Government and Politics test is currently being reviewed by the AP board to mimic the other exams by 2018.

Sophomore Brian Volk, who recently took the AP World History exam, said that the “stimulus-based questions really force you to use what you know and apply it.” While the test only consisted of a handful of analytical questions this year, Volk claims that they still affected the way he prepared for the questions.

AP European History teacher Ms. Dana Macrigiane has added more document-based multiple choice questions to her tests and has set aside class time to teach her students certain skills so that they would be familiar with the new types of questions. She said that although “the information taught hasn’t changed…some of the lingo used to describe certain types of questions has.”

The College Board also altered the format of the SAT earlier this year to decrease the amount of memorization required. Instead of requiring students to know the definitions of obscure vocabulary words, the new test asks students to derive definitions based on their contexts. According to junior Josephine Zheng, who recently took the new SAT, the math section also includes more stimulus based questions. “The test wasn’t as focused on finding tricks and using the shortest way to get the answer, but it was filled with paragraph-long questions that required us to fully understand what we needed to solve for.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative has similar goals: According to the official Common Core website, the new questions “are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.” New York’s Regents board said that “rather than asking students questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge, the standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having reading…with care.” The new Common Core Regents’ focus is not on a student’s ability to read a text but instead their ability to analyze a passage and make inferences based on said passage. Many math Regents exams have already adopted the new standards, and this year, the English exam will do so as well.

Changes have been implemented to better prepare students for their future, whether it includes a college path or an entrance into the workforce. The new AP, SAT, and Regents exams will stimulate a new nature to test preparation. Volk said, “It was necessary to culsult more study materials to prepared for this years changed exam.”

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