All posts by Eric Hoover


College Board Unveils Sample SAT Items

On Wednesday the College Board released a slew of information about its plans for redesigning the SAT, including several sample items that show how the test is changing. Here’s a look at five examples, with correct answers in bold.

‘Relevant Words in Context’

Obscure words are out, “relevant” words are in. The College Board plans to emphasize words and phrases that students are likely to encounter frequently in college. The following is a sample passage from the Reading section.

[...] The coming…


Common Application Might Need ‘More Focused Mission’

The plan for rolling out the Common Application’s new platform last summer was “not realistic in scope or timing,” leaving too little time for sufficient testing, according to a recent independent review of the organization.

A summary of the findings, which the Common Application sent me on Thursday, also says the nonprofit group’s mission ”is not consistently understood and shared across the membership.” The summary describes a “long-running tension” within the Common Application, which is both…


Colleges’ ‘Love-Hate Relationship’ With Rankings Pervades ACE Report

Except for those who’ve been vacationing on Neptune since last summer, most everyone’s heard about the Obama administration’s proposed college-ratings system, and the American Council on Education’s dislike of it.

Whatever your view, it’s worth reading this new report from the ACE, which offers various objections to the plan. One concern: The line between rating colleges and ranking them is, the report says, “a blurry one.” (Translation: “We don’t want this ratings system to turn into yet anothe…


Common Application Announces Abrupt Change in Leadership

Rob Killion, the Common Application’s executive director, has left the organization he led for nearly 10 years, but he insists he did not do so willingly.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Common Application announced that Mr. Killion had stepped down. In an interview, Thyra Briggs, president of the Common App’s Board of Directors, said Mr. Killion had decided to leave following conversations about the organization’s future. “Ultimately, it was Rob’s decision to step down,” she said.

In an interview…


At Test-Optional Colleges, Students Surpass the Scores They Didn’t Submit

At nearly three dozen colleges that do not require applicants to take the ACT or SAT, researchers have found only “trivial differences” between the long-term performance of college students who submitted test scores and those who did not.

According to a report released on Tuesday, the cumulative grade-point averages of non-submitters was .05 lower than of submitters (2.83 compared with 2.88). The difference in their graduation rates: 0.6 percent.

The report (“Defining Promise: Optional Standardi…


Grades Still Matter Most in Admissions

A majority of colleges attribute little or no importance to students’ race and ethnicity or first-generation status when reviewing applications, according to survey findings released on Thursday by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

The findings, which appear in the group’s “State of College Admission 2013″ report, shed light on how various student characteristics influenced evaluations of grades, strength of curriculum, and standardized-test scores—the most important f…


Want to Define Merit? Good Luck

Los Angeles — All day long they wrestled with the meaning of merit.

On Thursday enrollment officials here discussed the term around which the admissions world revolves. How colleges assess and reward merit shapes the socioeconomic and racial diversity of students at selective colleges. But what, exactly, is merit? Should colleges redefine it? If so, how?

At a conference held by the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice, many speakers agreed that…


Common App’s Board Begins Review of Organization and Technology

The Common Application’s Board of Directors has hired a consulting firm to conduct a “complete and expeditious review” of the organization’s structure and technology, according to emails the board recently sent to members.

As Nancy Griesemer, an independent college counselor and blogger, first reported on Monday, the board held an “off-cycle” meeting in December to discuss the technical problems that have dogged the revamped online application since last summer.

In a December 26 email to college…


High Schools Have a Cow Over College Board Stickers

cowThe College Board is known for many things, but a sense of humor is not one of them. So Gretchen G. Parks was surprised when the nonprofit organization sent her three dozen cow stickers.

On Wednesday morning, Ms. Parks, director of college counseling at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., received an envelope containing a letter. “Dear educator,” it said. “Your students participated in the PSAT/NMSQT, along with 3.6 million other students, and had a great time taking the…


Some Colleges Breathed a Sigh of Relief Over the Delay in the New SAT

For months college officials have heard all about the College Board’s plans to improve the SAT. At an admissions conference in September, David Coleman, the organization’s president, said he wanted to make the examination “beautiful.” Although the remark drew some chuckles, it conveyed his palpable enthusiasm for the new SAT, originally slated for a spring-2015 debut.

So some admissions deans were surprised when Mr. Coleman announced on Tuesday that the revamped exam would come one year later th…