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Survey: Length of New SAT Is Biggest

Survey: Length of New SAT Is Biggest
Complaint Among First-Round of Test-Takers

In a nationwide survey of test-takers conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, 87 percent of students recently taking the new SAT reported that the three-hour, 45-minute exam was the longest test of their lives, making stamina and extended concentration a greater challenge than actual content for many students.

To sample student opinion about the revamped SAT, Kaplan sent more than 100 interviewers to randomly selected test sites throughout the United States on March 12.

Kaplan interviewed 1,998 respondents at 39 sites. The margin of sampling error for the survey was plus or minus four percentage points.

Student comments overwhelmingly cited length as an issue: “There is absolutely no reason to make the test this long. It will still be just as effective if some of the sections are removed. No other tests are this long,” wrote one respondent who took the SAT in New York, where the three-hour Regents’ exam is administered. “I thought the test was long. At the end I had blurred vision,” says another test-taker from Texas. The extended length of the SAT makes it now longer than the graduate admissions exams for business school (GMAT, 3 1/2 hours), law school (LSAT, 3 hours, 25 minutes) and graduate school (GRE, 2 1/2 hours), in fact, among all admissions tests, only the medical school admissions exam (MCAT, 5 ¾ hours currently) is longer.

Despite the length of the SAT, the test administrator’s policy forbids students to bring snacks to the test, an issue many students raised. “The College Board should allow some snacks in between because the test is extremely long and by the end I was really hungry,” says a test-taker from California.

“This data shows that the SAT has become a test of endurance, as much as anything else,” says Jon Zeitlin, general manager of SAT & ACT programs. “Our advice to students is simple: take practice tests as part of your preparation. We provide a number of free practice test resources, through our test centers or through Taking practice tests is the only way to know what that four-hour length is really going to feel like.”

Kaplan’s survey also found that despite the media attention on the essay portion, 70 percent of test-takers reported they found the critical reading and math sections the most challenging.

“Either I didn’t remember some words or math equations, or some of the stuff I wasn’t taught yet,” reported one respondent from North Carolina, while a Utah test-taker says, “The English is really difficult.”

While most students felt the test was too long, they also felt there was not enough time allotted to the essay. Only 13 percent of test-takers found the essay to be the most challenging section, but a majority (55 percent) felt their essay scores would not accurately represent their writing ability, because of the timed conditions. More than a quarter of test-takers reported running out of time on the new essay section, so that they were forced to turn in half-finished compositions.

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