This is the VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT.
Each year, millions of people around the world apply to study at American colleges or universities. The most widely used college admissions test is called the S-A-T. More than three-million of the tests were given last year.
The S-A-T was first used for college admissions in nineteen-twenty-six. Its purpose was to help college officials identify which students would be successful in college.
Critics say the test has not always done this. Research suggests that students from rich families do better on the S-A-T test than students whose parents are poor. For example, many rich students are able to improve their scores on the test after taking costly preparation classes.
Critics also say many African-American and Hispanic teenagers score lower on the test than students of other ethnic groups.
The College Board is a non-profit higher education association that owns the S-A-T. It recently announced major changes in the test. It says the new S-A-T will better test a student's reasoning and thinking skills. Education experts say the new test will show how well students have learned material taught in high school.
The first change will end analogy questions on the S-A-T. Analogies are words with meanings that are linked. Critics have said that such questions show only a knowledge of words, not reasoning skills. The analogy questions will be replaced with questions that better show the student's reading ability.
The second major change will add higher level mathematics questions. The final change will add a writing test. Students will have about thirty minutes to write about their reactions to a question or statement.
Last year, the president of the University of California, Richard Atkinson, called on his school to stop using the S-A-T as an entrance requirement. He said the skills it tests are not taught in high school. He said the results of the test do not show if students are prepared to attend college.
College Board officials say those comments caused them to move quickly to change the test. However, they say they had been discussing such changes for some time. They say students will begin taking the new S-A-T in March, two-thousand-five. It will affect students planning to enter college in the fall of two-thousand-six.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.