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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 decades will likely see more intense clustering of jobs, innovation, and productivity in a smaller number of bigger cities and city-regions. Some regions could end up bloated beyond the capacity of their infrastructure, while others struggle, their promise stymied by inadequate human or other resources.

Adapted from Richard Florida, The Great Reset.
©2010 by Richard Florida.

As used in line 55, “intense” most nearly means
A) emotional.
B) concentrated.
C) brilliant.
D) determined.

‘Command of Evidence’

The revamped examination will ask test takers to use evidence to support their answers. The following  passage was adapted from a political speech:

… The North Carolina ratification convention: “No one need be afraid that officers who commit oppression will pass with immunity.”

“Prosecutions of impeachments will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community,” said Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, number 65. “We divide into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused.” I do not mean political parties in that sense.

The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.” Of the impeachment process, it was Woodrow Wilson who said that “Nothing short of the grossest offenses against the plain law of the land will suffice to give them speed and effectiveness. Indignation so great as to overgrow party interest may secure a conviction; but nothing else can.” [...]

Adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974, as a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives.

In lines 49-54 (“Prosecutions . . . sense”), what is the most likely reason Jordan draws a distinction between two types of “parties”?

A) To counter the suggestion that impeachment is or should be about partisan politics
B) To disagree with Hamilton’s claim that impeachment proceedings excite passions
C) To contend that Hamilton was too timid in his support for the concept of impeachment
D) To argue that impeachment cases are decided more on the basis of politics than on justice

Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

A) Lines 13-17 (“It … office”)
It is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office.
B) Lines 20-24 (“The division … astute”)
The division between the two branches of the legislature, the House and the Senate, assigning to the one the right to accuse and to the other the right to judge—the framers of this Constitution were very astute.
C) Lines 55-58 (“The drawing … misdemeanors”)
The drawing of political lines goes to the motivation behind impeachment; but impeachment must proceed within the confines of the constitutional term “high crime[s] and misdemeanors.”
D) Lines 65-68 (“Congress … transportation”)
Congress has a lot to do: appropriations, tax reform, health insurance, campaign finance reform, housing, environmental protection, energy sufficiency, mass transportation.

Linear Equations and Functions

The new SAT’s mathematics section will drill down deeper into algebra. The exam will emphasize mastery of linear equations and functions.

When a scientist dives in salt water to a depth of 9 feet below the surface, the pressure due to the atmosphere and surrounding water is 18.7 pounds per square inch. As the scientist descends, the pressure increases linearly. At a depth of 14 feet, the pressure is 20.9 pounds per square inch. If the pressure increases at a constant rate as the scientist’s depth below the surface increases, which of the following linear models best describes the pressure p in pounds per square inch at a depth of d feet below the surface?
A) p = 0.44d + 0.77
B) p = 0.44d + 14.74
C) p = 2.2d – 1.1
D) p = 2.2d – 9.9

Analyzing Questions in Science, History/Social Studies

On the new Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, as well as on the Math section, students will answer questions based on texts and graphs pertaining to science and history/social studies. The following passage asks students to determine which of four claims is accurate based on the data in the graph.

Which claim about traffic congestion is supported by the graph?
A) New York City commuters spend less time annually delayed by
traffic congestion than the average for very large cities.
B) Los Angeles commuters are delayed more hours annually by traffic congestion than are commuters in Washington, D.C.
C) Commuters in Washington, D.C., face greater delays annually due to traffic congestion than do commuters in New York City.
D) Commuters in Detroit spend more time delayed annually by traffic congestion than do commuters in Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Essay Requiring Analysis of Source Texts

The current version of the SAT essay allows students to write about their own opinions and experiences. On the revamped SAT, essay prompts will ask students to analyze texts.

As you read the passage below, consider how Dana Gioia uses
• evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
• reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
• stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

[A] strange thing has happened in the American arts during the past quarter century. While income rose to unforeseen levels, college attendance ballooned, and access to information increased enormously, the interest young Americans showed in the arts—and especially literature—actually diminished.

According to the 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a population study designed and commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts (and executed by the US Bureau of the Census), arts participation by Americans has declined for eight of the nine major forms that are measured. … The declines have been most severe among younger adults (ages 18-24). The most worrisome finding in the 2002 study, however, is the declining percentage of Americans, especially young adults, reading literature.

That individuals at a time of crucial intellectual and emotional development bypass the joys and challenges of literature is a troubling trend. If it were true that they substituted histories, biographies, or political works for literature, one might not worry. But book reading of any kind is falling as well. That such a longstanding and fundamental cultural activity should slip so swiftly, especially among young adults, signifies deep transformations in contemporary life. To call attention to the trend, the Arts Endowment issued the reading portion of the Survey as a separate report, “Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.”

The decline in reading has consequences that go beyond literature. The significance of reading has become a persistent theme in the business world. The February issue of Wired magazine, for example, sketches a new set of mental skills and habits proper to the 21st century, aptitudes decidedly literary in character: not “linear, logical, analytical talents,” author Daniel Pink states, but “the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative.” When asked what kind of talents they like to see in management positions, business leaders consistently set imagination, creativity, and higher-order thinking at the top.

Ironically, the value of reading and the intellectual faculties that it inculcates appear most clearly as active and engaged literacy declines. There is now a growing awareness of the consequences of nonreading to the workplace. In 2001 the National Association of Manufacturers polled its members on skill deficiencies among employees. Among hourly workers, poor reading skills ranked second, and 38 percent of employers complained that local schools inadequately taught reading comprehension.

The decline of reading is also taking its toll in the civic sphere. … A 2003 study of 15- to 26-year-olds’ civic knowledge by the National Conference of State Legislatures concluded, “Young people do not understand the ideals of citizenship … and their appreciation and support of American democracy is limited.”

It is probably no surprise that declining rates of literary reading coincide with declining levels of historical and political awareness among young people. One of the surprising findings of “Reading at Risk” was that literary readers are markedly more civically engaged than nonreaders, scoring two to four times more likely to perform charity work, visit a museum, or attend a sporting event. One reason for their higher social and cultural interactions may lie in the kind of civic and historical knowledge that comes with literary reading. …

The evidence of literature’s importance to civic, personal, and economic health is too strong to ignore. The decline of literary reading foreshadows serious long-term social and economic problems, and it is time to bring literature and the other arts into discussions of public policy. Libraries, schools, and public agencies do noble work, but addressing the reading issue will require the leadership of politicians and the business community as well. …

Reading is not a timeless, universal capability. Advanced literacy is a specific intellectual skill and social habit that depends on a great many educational, cultural, and economic factors. As more Americans lose this capability, our nation becomes less informed, active, and independent-minded. These are not the qualities that a free, innovative, or productive society can afford to lose.

Adapted from “Why Literature Matters” by Dana Gioia. ©2005 by The New York Times Company. Originally published April 10, 2005.

Write an essay in which you explain how Dana Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience that the decline of reading in America will have a negative effect on society. In your essay, analyze how Gioia uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Gioia’s claims, but rather explain how Gioia builds an argument to persuade his audience.

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