Friday, March 11, 2005

Iolani School sophomores listened intently yesterday as math teacher Dave Masunaga prepared them for the math portion of the PSAT test, which will be administered later this year. The SAT test takes place tomorrow.

The SATs

A new essay section
is raising test anxiety

For more than a year, Iolani School junior Krystal Kurokawa has been coming to school 15 minutes early on days when the school offers coaching for college entrance exams.

She even took a six-week summer-school class on preparing for the test.

A Sample SAT
Essay Question

Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and assignment below:

A sense of happiness and fulfillment, not personal gain, is the best motivation and reward for one's achievements. Expecting a reward of wealth or recognition for achieving a goal can lead to disappointment and frustration. If we want to be happy in what we do in life, we should not seek achievement for the sake of winning wealth and fame. The personal satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward.

Assignment: Are people motivated to achieve by personal satisfaction rather than by money or fame? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience or observations.

Source: College Board

But even with all that preparation, Kurokawa is nervous about tomorrow's SAT tests, when she will be among the first group of students to take a new revised SAT test, which includes an essay, higher-level math questions, and does away with analogy questions (cub:bear is like puppy:dog).

It's the essay section, which has generated the most anxiety for college-bound students. They will have 25 minutes to write their thoughts in longhand on an issue to be announced at the test site.

"I don't know what to expect," Kurosawa said.

The essay and multiple choice questions on writing will determine a student's score in the new writing section of the SAT, which will join the verbal (now called critical reading) and math scores to be sent to college admissions offices. The rival ACT test also included an essay in February, but that section was optional.

"We've seen an increase in anxiety," said Steve Brennan, director of advising for College Connections, a company that offers tutoring for the test.

Brennan also said students from Hawaii are aware that Hawaii generally has not done well in the verbal section of the SAT. "Students aren't confident in their writing," he said. "They are really afraid that it's going to impact their chances for college."

Of the major colleges and universities locally, only the University of Hawaii-Manoa will require the SAT writing section for admission in fall 2006. Incoming students will have to score at least 510 out of 800 on the writing as well as the traditional verbal and math sections of the SAT.

Other schools are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"Who knows what you're going to get in 25 minutes? Students are already anxious about taking a test as it is," said Cherie Andrade, director of admissions at Hawaii Pacific University.

HPU requires the SAT or ACT test, but will not use the writing score to determine admission.

After a student is admitted, HPU gives them a written exam. The results are used to place students in firqt-year writing classes. Students have up to two hours to complete the exam, which allows for revision. Students won't have time for a second draft on the SAT test essays.

The school will probably compare the results of the written exam with the writing score on the SAT and then evaluate how accurate the SAT test is in determining a student's writing ability.

Iolani School junior Justin Ichikawa used a computer yesterday to study for the SAT, a standard college admissions test being given tomorrow.

However, UH-Manoa interim admissions director Jan Heu said writing is an important consideration in determining whether a student should be admitted.

"It (writing ability) is something they definitely need in order to succeed here," said UH-Manoa interim admissions director Jan Heu. "The faculty felt it was important that students come with the appropriate writing skills."

At Chaminade University, admissions director Joy Bouey said the school is recommending students take the written test, but it is not required this year. The school will read the essays and use it as a factor in admission for 2006 and will require it in 2007.

"It does give some kind of insights into the writing ability of the student," Bouey said.

Chaminade also requires a personal essay for admission. Because the SAT and ACT essays are timed and supervised, admissions officials will be able to compare the personal essay to how a student writes under pressure.

"We can find out if they really wrote it (the personal essay) themselves," Bouey said.

Still, Bouey said she does have some unresolved concerns about how creativity will be graded on the SAT and ACT essays.

"A Shakespeare or Hemingway may not get a good score because they write differently," she said.

UH-Hilo admissions director Jim Cromwell said he would like to evaluate the new SAT test before deciding if it should be used in admissions.

"We are just going to admit; see how they do and then compare academic performance and scoring," he said. "That seems like a prudent thing to do."

Brigham Young University Hawaii and its sister campuses will not require the written SAT score in 2006.

UH community colleges and UH-West Oahu do not use the SAT or ACT tests at all for admissions.

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