Ruminations on grammar, philology, standardized testing, and anything else that strikes my fancy

How Many Points is Your Name Worth on the SAT?

TL;DR: Your name isn't worth any points.

The question comes from the flip remark that, because the minimum score on the SAT is 600 (200 each for the Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing components), you get 600 points for just for filling in your name. In point of fact, this claim is untrue on several levels.

First, if you merely fill in your name on an SAT score sheet and submit it with no questions filled in, College Board interprets the lack of answers as a request to cancel your scores, so you will get no results at all.

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Delayed for Administrative Review

A certain number of SAT takers each year find their scores "delayed for administrative review." Whenever this happens, the students affected are naturally upset or worried, but if this happens to you and you took the test in the U.S., it's almost always good news, assuming of course you didn't actually cheat. (You didn't, did you?)
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A (mostly) sensible list of grammar errors

Normally, when I see a headline about a list of grammatical errors, I can predict that it will piss me off (and at least half the complaints will really be about spelling rather than grammar). This list, 10 Grammar Mistakes People Love to Correct (That Aren't Actually Wrong) is actually pretty sensible.
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You're doing it wrong

Randall Munroe is a smart guy, but to me it looks like he flubbed the punchline here in the latest XKCD:

Do These Clowns Even Know What an AP Course Is?

Over the last few weeks, there has been a spate of news items about various conservatives bashing the College Board's framework for the AP U.S. History test, culminating in the Colorado students who have been protesting their school board's attempts to change the AP curriculum.

Passive Fail Redux

Linguist Geoff Pullum has been cataloging instances of well-educated people who cannot distinguish the passive voice from other syntactic structures, the fruits of which are an excellent article, "Fear and Loathing of the English Passive," to appear in Language and Communication. If you teach writing, I highly recommend it.

Goodbye to Sentence Completions

When the SAT changes in 2016, there will be no more sentence-completion questions. The College Board didn't announce this change directly. Instead they said that "No longer will students use flashcards to memorize obscure words, only to forget them the minute they put their test pencils down."
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Changing the number of answer choices

This is part three in my analysis of the changes to the SAT. Part 1. Part 2.

Another forthcoming change to the SAT is the number of answer choices per question: there will be four rather than five options for all questions. This is another way in which the new SAT will more closely resemble the ACT, which already uses four-choice questions for all the tests except Mathematics.

On Formula Scoring

This is the second installment of my commentary on the changes to the SAT. Part 1 is here

There are a few changes to the new SAT that I know people will be talking a lot about but which actually matter less than you might think they would to the test taker, although they matter quite a bit to the people making the test. Of these, one has received much press attention since the initial announcement: no more deduction for wrong answers.

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