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

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.

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."

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.

The SAT and SES

Everyone seems to be talking about the new SAT. I'm going to reserve judgment until I see really specific information about the new test. The rather vague descriptions so far sound fine, but details are very, very important on standardized tests.

The New York Times article on the changes has a lot of interesting stuff. But one comment about the relationship between the SAT and socioeconomic status (SES) caught my attention:


Test Corruption

The UK has asked ETS, the company that creates the SAT for the College Board, to stop administering two major tests, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) in Great Britain, for the purposes of fulfilling the UK's immigration requirements.


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