Can you answer this sample question from the newly redesigned SAT?

Can you answer this math question from a practice test for the SAT?

SAT study blogs recommend spending only about 75 seconds on each math problem, so you should set a timer.

Ready?


Here it is:

A typical image taken of the surface of Mars by a camera is 11.2 gigabits in size. A tracking station on Earth can receive data from the spacecraft at a data rate of 3 megabits per second for a maximum of 11 hours each day. If 1 gigabit equals 1,024 megabits, what is the maximum number of typical images that the tracking station could receive from the camera each day?

A) 3
B) 10
C) 56
D) 144




*You can find the answer at the bottom of this story.

Keep in mind that the numeric details here are presented in an intentionally confusing order, from which multiple equations must be extrapolated before any math can actually be done.

Give up? Timer run out? Or hey, maybe you answered it without even blinking (no judgements here ... nerd).

That question comes from the newly redesigned SAT, which will roll out in March 2016.

Millions of juniors and seniors in high school take the SAT every year with the palm-sweating hope they'll do well enough on it to at least get into their safety school. The test is, traditionally, the final word on your intelligence and scholastic acumen before you go off to college.


The second worst aisle in the book store. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Of course, there's no shortage of strongly worded arguments to the contrary, and the SAT, which was designed in the 1920s, has long been criticized for being outdated and unfair to groups such as minorities and lower-income students.

"The only persistent statistical result from the SAT is the correlation between high income and high test scores," Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, told Time magazine in 2014.

But in an apparent attempt to address the criticism that students from high-income families perform better on the SAT, the College Board might have actually made the SAT even worse.

The College Board, which makes the SAT, has updated the test to be "more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education" and to more accurately reflect what students are actually learning in high school as well as what they need to succeed in college.

"College success skills?" Former College Board president Gaston Caperton in 2002. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The SAT was also redesigned to more effectively compete with its competitor, the ACT, which has been gaining more market share since at least 2008.

With the SAT redesign comes a new set of problems.

And I'm not just talking about math problems.

Simply put, the new SAT test is wordier. There are longer and harder reading passages as well as more words in the math problems.

Experts are saying that those changes put immigrants and lower-income students at an even greater disadvantage since they might not have as much access to English-language reading as other students.


Carol McMullen-Pettit, a premier tutor at The Princeton Review, with a student in 2014. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The College Board is countering those criticisms, of course, saying that the new SAT test contains the same amount of words in its reading sections and that the math sections contain the same percentage of word problems as before (about 30%).

Outside analysts are alleging that the way words are used on the updated SAT is what makes all the difference.

Short sentence-completion questions, for example, have been swapped out for long reading passages from prose-heavy texts like "Ethan Frome" and "Moby-Dick" or political thought pieces like John Locke's "Consent of the Governed."

Math problems have also been wrapped in more narrative, forcing students to do a higher level of reading comprehension just to figure what equation the question is really asking about.

Another math problem that took me and two other college graduates 20 minutes to solve.

And just to be clear, the SAT is supposed to be challenging. On top of that, math word problems are meant to teach extrapolation and reading comprehension as much as algebra.

However, if we want a test that's even a little bit "standard," it's going to have to take into account that some students are at a disadvantage when it comes to skills like reading comprehension.

"It’s going to change who does well," said Lee Weiss, vice president of precollege programs at Kaplan Test Prep, to The New York Times. "Before, if you were a student from a family where English was not the first language, you could really excel on the math side. It may be harder in the administration of this new test to decipher that, because there is so much text on both sides of the exam."

Whether the new SAT addresses systemic disadvantages or makes them worse remains to be seen.

"We’re going to need to see how they did, which test is going to be better, how can we weigh it," Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Times.

But it's hard not to feel for the kids who are currently studying and signing up to take the SAT. For the last several years, many of them have been told that it's one of the most important ingredients in their recipe for success, but in fact, the SAT is likely on its way out.

Texas A&M University, which doesn't require SAT scores for admission. Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images.

Hundreds of colleges are now going "test optional" because the SAT is so outdated.

Advocates all the way up to the president have called on schools to reduce the time spent on standardized testing, saying that it puts students under a tremendous amount of stress while failing to make them smarter.

In fact, studies have shown that SAT and ACT are not a good measure of a student's intelligence or academic potential at all. It's pretty easy to see why a test designed shortly after World War I is at best outdated and at worst dramatically unfair.

Oh, and by the way: The answer to the Mars question from the top is B) 10.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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