The SAT Racket | Teen Ink

The SAT Racket MAG

November 29, 2007
By William Ho, New York, NY

Are you ready for a completely random question? No? Oh, come on! It’s a fill-in-the-blank. Everybody loves those. “Completely ­irrelevant to what students typically learn in school, taking the SATs was a _______ experience for Joe Bloggs.” Here are your choices. Oh, you can’t discern what any of the words mean? What a conundrum! You’re going to guess and go with choice C? That seems desultory, don’t you think? But don’t worry; if you’re lucky, your haphazard conjecture may get you the credited response.

Okay, maybe that last problem was a bit unreasonable. Try this one: “If X number of students pay a fee of Y dollars to take the SATs and half the students take a test prep course costing Z dollars, express the net profit of the testing industry in terms of X.” Did you get all that? You didn’t? Maybe you should have spent more ­money on SAT prep. By the way, the ­credited response is choice E: “A lot.”

When the first SAT was given to a group of students in 1926, it was known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and was intended to test innate knowledge. Over the years, however, the acronym became just a series of letters standing for nothing, causing people to wonder what exactly the SAT is supposed to be testing. Simply put, the SAT does not test important skills, and it implic­itly encourages the use of questionable writing techniques, making it, in my opinion, a hindrance to learning.

If you’re like most students, you won’t understand most of the things that are on today’s SATs. There’s no reason why you would. The SAT doesn’t accu­rately test you on things you’ve learned in school. ­According to PBS’s “Frontline” and psychologist Claude Steele, “The test only measures about 18 percent of the things that it takes to do well in school.” The fact is, it doesn’t determine how “smart” you are. It tests your ability to sit in a room for four hours, ­understand random vocabulary, fill in bubbles, write clichéd ­essays containing made-up facts, and make lucky guesses. But, most importantly, it tests to see if you have money.

“The best way to prepare for the SAT is to read a lot and to take rigorous academic courses,” states Wayne Camera, director of the Office of Research at the College Board. While that may help, taking an SAT-prep course is the only solution for most people. However, not everyone can afford this. Some families will have to face the fact that their children won’t do well on the SATs and probably won’t get into the colleges of their dreams. Meanwhile, ETS and the College Board, the companies that develop and administer the test, are making tons of money.

The SAT is a business with the purpose of making money. Not only do people have to pay for test prep, but the test itself costs $45. Kaplan and the Princeton Review are two of the leading SAT test prep companies. However, they are not the only ones. With the number of test prep programs constantly growing, parents are more willing to spend a lot of money enrolling their children in these courses; some even hire tutors who cost hundreds of dollars an hour. It’s hard to deny that the SAT has become a business.

An example of this growth would be the change in format in 2005. The test now includes a 25-minute essay section. Many believe that this section is teaching students bad writing habits, as the essay’s length is considered more important than its content when it comes to grading. “SAT graders are told to read an ­essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay,” Michael Winerip wrote in the New York Times. On one occasion, a reporter held up a sample essay at a distance, and a grader was able to guess the correct score based only on length. However, length alone does not indicate that the test-taker included relevant or accurate facts and ­details to back up the thesis.

Graders are not allowed to penalize essays for inaccurate facts, and this causes many test-takers to simply make them up. “I would advise writing as long as possible, and include lots of facts, even if they’re made up,” said MIT professor Dr. Perelman in the same New York Times article. Making up facts is not an acceptable writing tactic, and yet the SAT implic­itly encourages it.

Many believe the SAT is unnecessary, because it does not test knowledge fairly and teaches inappropriate writing techniques. In addition, affluent students who can afford test prep have an advantage. The test has changed a lot over time and is now simply a way for people to make money. Some colleges share these views and have made SAT scores optional, or have decided not to consider them at all. More colleges need to realize that the SATs are not an accurate measure of students’ knowledge, and reconsider the necessity of this test score in the application process.

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This article has 6 comments.

on Mar. 13 2012 at 7:45 pm
I had a dream to make my company, nevertheless I did not have got enough amount of cash to do that. Thank heaven my close fellow proposed to use the credit loans. Therefore I took the sba loan and realized my old dream.

on Oct. 20 2011 at 2:52 pm
tabbycat27 BRONZE, Columbus, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
- C.S. Lewis

I took the ACT for this very reason! I couldn't understand much of what was on the PSAT, and would be lucky getting that much money from my parents for the test let alone test prep.

I'm glad you were able to write so entertainingly about what a lot of us are thinking, even if some aren't, because there are a lot of officials out there talking a lot of talk.

And, like I said, it was very entertaining and thought-provoking. Nice writing skills!

bullseye575 said...
on Oct. 11 2011 at 11:42 am
i like how there is math in the qusten and that it is not a school qusten

on Mar. 1 2011 at 11:12 pm
blues_are.still_blue BRONZE, Southampton, Pennsylvania
3 articles 0 photos 109 comments

Favorite Quote:
This sentence is false.
- Unknown

To be honest i disagree. I realize that the SATs dont have much to do with school material, but it instead tests logic; an important factor in figuring out how well you could do in college. Some people, like me, do better on standardized tests than on general school work, and it's not because i "memorize random facts" or use "inappropriate writing techniques". It's because i'm good at logical comprehension and because i studied by butt off for them. It's because i read a lot and that made me familiar with an extensive vocabulary and because i can clearly explain and elaborate on an idea with a short amount of time. I didn't get a 2120 for guessing.

on Feb. 17 2011 at 6:32 am
Are the SAT's really like that? Yikes! I am definately taking the prep course!

Runner GOLD said...
on Nov. 15 2010 at 8:08 pm
Runner GOLD, Amherst, Massachusetts
15 articles 0 photos 30 comments


So true. Thank you for eloquently stating what every student in the country is thinking.