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The Correct Answer Is Still the S.A.T.

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To underscore the revamping of the most widely used college-admissions test, the trustees of the College Board voted late last month to change the name of the Scholastic Aptitude Test to the Scholastic Assessment Tests.

The action was taken "to foster better public understanding of the true nature of the tests, to emphasize the changes in content and in format of the new S.A.T. in the coming year, and to convey the ongoing evolution of our testing program,'' according to Donald M. Stewart, the president of the board.

The new name will refer to the battery of revised versions of the test, scheduled to be introduced next March. One new test, called S.A.T. I, places a greater emphasis than the previous test on critical reading and on student-generated answers in mathematics. The S.A.T. II, or subject-matter tests, consist of a writing test, revised Achievement Tests--including new tests in Chinese and Japanese--and the use of calculators in math tests.

Mr. Stewart also noted that the name change reflects a growing body of research that shows that students who take challenging coursework in high school do better on the test. The old name, which has been used since 1926, conveys the idea that performance is related to innate ability, he said.

"We hope this action sends a strong message to students that the S.A.T. reflects and rewards rigorous academic effort,'' Mr. Stewart said, "and that it is wrong to think of the S.A.T. as a measure of I.Q.''

Critics of the S.A.T. dismissed the name change as simply an attempt to refashion the test's image, not its substance. Like the previous version, the revised S.A.T. will be biased against women and minorities and irrelevant to college-admissions processes, charged Robert Schaeffer, the public-education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, or FairTest.

"Fully three-quarters of the items on the 'new S.A.T.' will be exactly the same types as are on the current test,'' Mr. Schaeffer said. "Like the slightly revised name, these changes are largely cosmetic.''--R.R.

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