By Alex E. Proimos (http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Am I missing something here? To me, this falls somewhere between not-a-huge-deal and kinda-a-big-deal. Of course, the nature of the paper SAT has always enabled people willing to risk being caught cheating to keep thinking about a question after time is called and revisit it during the next section, but now what you have is a section where calculators are prohibited followed immediately by a section where calculators are allowed.

There are, by design, questions in the no calculator section that would be very easy with a calculator. For example, look at question #18 on page 36 of Practice Test 4:

That’s a bit tricky without a calculator, no? But it’s a 2-second problem if you graph it. The function is at 0 when x = 5. No factoring or tricky algebra necessary. This is one of the hardest questions in the no calculator section.

If they know they’ll have their calculators and be able to graph the equation just a few minutes later, some kids are going to memorize the equation (or just flip back to it surreptitiously) and graph it when they get their calculators.

What boggles my mind about this issue is that it goes away if the calculator section comes first. I have to assume it wasn’t just a random choice to put the sections in the order they’re in, but I can’t imagine why this particular decision was made.