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Friday, September 9. 2011
Is there a meaningful difference between an 800 and a 770 on the Math section of the SAT?
My proposal for the SAT exams (which, for our overseas readers, is used to measure something called "college readiness" - although in the US today college readiness can mean ability to pay or to obtain loans and grants to pay. American colleges are full of kids who cannot even do basic trigonometry) is to make three sections, each with a fairly steep slope of demands from basic to subtle and advanced:
- Scientific and quantitative
- Literary, reading comprehension, and writing
- General academic information (ie history, the arts, religion, geography, etc)
Then to score each section with the usual academic letter grades, A+ to F (with A+ reserved for a perfect score because that means you know it all and can execute it without sloppiness).
If I had my druthers, I would add a regular IQ test also, but in the current atmosphere I don't think that would be accepted despite the fact that plenty of grad schools do require it. (I had to take an IQ twice, once for the army and once for grad school. I think maybe we had to take one in grade school too in order to assess our academic potential.)
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Interesting - what would you consider to be Scientific and quantitative?
Math, mechanics, bio, physics, chem, natural history....for starters
That is pretty much what I thought you might say. And I agree.
RE: your comment about Trig - I have run into high school graduates who can't do basic geometry.
More than the SAT, young students need some type of systematic evaluation that matches student capabilities and proclivities with possible careers.
Kids know almost nothing about the tens of thousands of possible careers, until its too late to change.
This disparity will only increase as technology accelerates.
Not sure that is a school's problem. People have to figure that out on their own. We have to assume they want to be independent adults....
Decisions that determines one's ultimate career must be made long before one becomes a responsible adult.
Note that I did not say that career determination is the responsibility of schools. I merely stated that students need the service, perhaps as an online service provided for a reasonable fee by a private company.
Most schools use the SAT to eliminate candidates not to select them. One of the best computer technicians I ever knew would regularly ask people to read things for him. He couldn't take a test because of his bad reading skills. In our job we would get called in the middle of the night to come in and fix the equipment. Some of the more flashy technicians were all show and little skill. One early AM came the call for my friend to get out of bed and drive to work and make the machines work again. He pointed out that one of the highly proclaimed higher paid flashy technicians was working so why did he need to come in and fix the equipment. The simple answer was because my friend was the only one who actually knew the system well enough to fix it. So much for the ability to take a test.
800 used to be the top math score. I think scoring has been changed since you and me took the SAT; me in the very early 1970s. The SAT was an IQ test, by the way. 1000 on the SAT was = to an IQ of 100. ymmv.
Certain high IQ societies, like Mensa, the Prometheus Society and the Triple Nine Society, use scores from certain years as one of their admission tests. For instance, the Triple Nine Society accepts scores of 1450 on tests taken before April 1995, and scores of at least 1520 on tests taken between April 1995 and February 2005.
"800 used to be the top math score."
Still is, Red. AIUI the SAT is now three sections instead of two, but each section still has a max score of 800.
Barrister: "Is there a meaningful difference between an 800 and a 770 on the Math section of the SAT? "
Probably not. Even to score 770, you gotta be scary good at math.
I think the general idea was that the mean score would be 500, and then 100 for every standard deviation. Hence ideally 700 would be in the 98'th percentile and the difference between 770 and 800 would be significant on average. However, I expect the error at the upper end on an individual basis is fairly large, and then again, the test measures how well one scores on the test and not math ability directly. I helped a girl friend study for the math section and she increased her score by over 100 points, so the tests don't measure raw aptitude but a combination of aptitude and schooling.
"the test measures how well one scores on the test and not math ability directly."
As i recall, not too many dummies made 700 or higher on the SAT when I took it, but all the math whiz-kids were there or higher. I would also say that the whiz-kids had math ability; and they also tested well.
Studying for the SAT is like studying for a blood test. It's either there or not. Learning how to take the SAT is important; it saves time and confusion and knowing how to answer improves scores.
I think the difference between a 770 and an 800 math score (old scale) is between someone who's going to do well at a difficult school but may not choose a math/science career, on the one hand, and someone who almost certainly will end up a professional math/science whiz, on the other. But there's no doubt that fine gradations are easier near the median score of a test than way out there on the tail.
One of the classic discussions of the SAT (in particular the SATV) is Why America Needs the SAT by William Dowling of Rutgers.
To emphasize one particular point:
A point almost never discussed by either side in the SAT controversy, for instance, no doubt because it is as much a political powder keg as the issue of natural cognitive ability, is that there is an average SATV level below which no institution can sustain a college-level curriculum, for the simple reason that such a curriculum will consist of materials beyond the comprehension of a student body with lower-level SATV scores. For any such curriculum will necessarily include not only writers like Aristotle, Thoreau, and Henry James, but history or economics or anthropology textbooks assuming college-level reading ability. My own analysis, based on difficulty levels of SATV items in relation to materials taught at Rutgers, suggests that a 580 SATV marks the lower limit of college-level reading comprehension, a combined 1130 SAT the minimum needed for college-level work.
Yet many colleges and universities have mean or average SAT scores below this level, which is no doubt why one so often hears the complaint that many public institutions in America, operating essentially on a policy of open admissions, have become little more than glorified high schools...
I don't see how anyone can be trusted to judge 'writing,' other than the difference between illiterate (fail) and literate (pass). Fine gradations are impossible.