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Students Advised of Shift in SAT Scoring : Tests: Some youths may be misled when they see higher scores on their results, officials warn.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hundreds of college-bound students are in the midst of nerve-racking cram sessions to prepare for the dreaded Scholastic Assessment Test, to be administered Saturday at schools across Ventura County.

While most know they need high marks--top scores are required for admission to the nation’s most prestigious universities--many are not aware that the scoring system has changed, counselors and teachers at Ventura County high schools said Thursday.

Beginning this spring, the SAT scoring scale has been adjusted so that the average verbal score has gone up by about 80 points and the average math score has risen 20 points, testing officials said.

When students see the higher scores on their results, they may be misled into thinking they are good enough for the college of their choice, said Robert Collins, a counselor at Ventura High School.

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But that might not be true, he said.

In response to the change, colleges are raising their SAT requirements, Collins said.

“My feeling is that [most students] don’t know about the change,” Collins said. “They have been told, but it’s just not something that is going to sink in until they get their scores.”

Ron Corcillo, program director for the Princeton Review, an SAT preparation course company that holds sessions in Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, agrees.

“A lot of people are confused,” Corcillo said. “Students who took the SAT in April are seeing high scores on their results and think they are safe. But they may not realize that their score is lower than the recentered median.”

Last year, for instance, a combined score of 1150 was high enough for admission to UCLA, Corcillo said.

But a student who took the SAT this spring--either in April, May or this week--will need a combined score of 1230 to be considered for admission to UCLA.

“Colleges will have to raise their standards, because they can only admit so many students,” Corcillo said.

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The New York-based College Board, which oversees administration of the SAT, has published bulletins, held workshops and supplied explanatory videos and computer disks in an attempt to prepare students and colleges for the change, said spokeswoman Janice A. Gams.

The adjustment, which the College Board calls “recentering,” was needed to reflect the larger and more diverse population taking the SAT today, Gams said.

Average scores were last set in 1941, when 10,000 predominantly white males took the SAT to gain admittance primarily to Ivy League colleges, she said. Since then, average scores have dropped from 500 to 424 on the verbal portion of the test and from 500 to 478 in math.

College Board officials refute criticism that the SAT is being “dumbed down.”

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“When colleges make admission decisions and award scholarships, they compare students with their contemporaries, not those of 54 years ago,” said Bradley J. Quin, associate director of the SAT program. “It makes sense to provide them with a score scale that reflects that fact.”

It is also easier for students and colleges to compare and interpret scores with the revised scale, Quin said. With both averages near 500, students will immediately know where they stand in the test-taking population, he said.

The change will not affect the difficulty of the test or students’ performance, Quin said. And a student’s ranking among his classmates nationally, expressed as a percentile, will also not be affected, he said.

Sharon Dawson, a counselor at Royal High School in Simi Valley, said she has been warning students about the revised scale since April, when the first SAT of the spring was administered. She told more students who took the test in May.

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And she has reminded the 160 juniors scheduled to take the exam Saturday. But she is not sure that all students--and their parents--are getting the message.

“I’ve had parents call and ask why their child’s score is so high,” she said. “It’s going to take some time for everyone to figure out just what this means.”

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Resetting SAT Scores

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High school seniors taking the SAT this year will have an average combined score about 100 points higher than they would have scored a year ago because average scores have been reset to 500 verbal and 504 math to make it easier for colleges and students to interpret and compare scores. Colleges are raising their SAT requirements to reflect the change in scoring.

Average SAT score in 1994 Average score th Verbal Math Combined Verbal Math National average 424 478 902 500 504 Caltech 660 760 1420 720 770 Harvard 670 720 1390 730 710 Princeton 650 710 1360 710 700 Claremont 600 670 1270 670 660 Stanford 640 710 1350 700 700 UC Berkeley 570 660 1230 640 660 UCLA 530 620 1150 610 620 USC 530 600 1130 610 600 UC Irvine 460 570 1030 540 580

is year Combined National average 1004 Caltech 1490 Harvard 1440 Princeton 1410 Claremont 1330 Stanford 1400 UC Berkeley 1300 UCLA 1230 USC 1210 UC Irvine 1120

Source: The Princeton Review

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