The SAT: What does it really achieve?


In 2012, over 1.6 million American students took the SAT, but only half of those students were deemed college-ready. Cheating scandals, thousands of dollars spent on SAT prep and severely anxious students on testing day have plagued the stigma surrounding the SAT for years. Many argue the SAT should no longer be a factor in determining college admission. They argue against the standardized views of society.

Those who argue this stand correct. The SAT serves to place unnecessary pressure on students and creates a bias towards those who succeed at structured curriculum learning.

Every year, students face an enormous amount of pressure to conquer standardized testing. However, this ridiculous volume of stress accumulated over years of school often drives students to perform worse on the SAT or take inappropriate action in order to do well. For students from Great Neck, N.Y. in 2011, the pressure of success remained so overwhelming it drove them to cheat and eventually face criminal charges. Why would we want to live in a society where students feel immorality exists as the only way to “succeed?”

Our entire lives we are taught for the “test.” We begin the dark descent into standardized learning in third grade with the EOG, then the EOC, PLAN, PSAT, ACT and SAT. It never ends. And students never learn for the sake of experiencing something new. A foundation is built for the generic house of the SAT. College admission should be heavily interview, essay, and resume based. Paul Siemens, author of “Not an I.Q. Test,” argues the SAT “provide[s] a reasonably reliable barometer of the extent to which a student has been able to master the general high school curriculum in a way that will prepare her for college.” But how far can this comprehensive compilation really take us in life. Many dimensions of scholastic ability aren’t measured by the SAT, concentrated work over an extended period being one. You are expected to demonstrate your best capabilities in areas that are supposed to project your college success, but you only have twenty-five minutes in each section to do so.

Furthermore, the SAT does not assess intelligence accurately, especially for students possessing a more creative or liberal arts oriented mind. For those of us wishing to become writers, where is our creative writing test? For those of us wishing to become filmmakers or painters, where is our evaluation? For those of us wishing to become something other than doctors, engineers, scientists, or math teachers, our college acceptance should not greatly depend on our knowledge of algebraic functions.

Alternatively, supporters of the SAT reason the test fairly estimates the level of success a student will achieve in college. David Hambrick, author of the article “A Good Intelligence Test,” claims “[the SAT] is largely a measure of general intelligence,” and “scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time…” But no standardized test will ever measure one’s determination, passion, or character. And while many colleges consider the SAT a small factor when reviewing a prospective student – teachers, students, and parents alike know if you perform poorly on such a reputed test, you are not going to Harvard. The SAT simply measures how well you are taught to test.

If we lived in the majority of the average High School Student’s version of a Utopian society, testing, especially standardized testing wouldn’t exist. Nonetheless, that is not a realistic option. It is realistic, however, to discontinue the use of the SAT in college admissions. The SAT does not test how much you know or your aptitude, rather how you can maneuver through standardized curriculum. The SAT, along with other standardized tests, promotes the question “How well did you do? What grade did you receive?” We must start focusing on the root of education – learning for the sake of passion. Stop asking, “What was our score?” and start asking, “What did we learn?”


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