"Of course, you do not have to read the whole passage. Just read the first sentences in each paragraph; skip the rest," my instructor explained. I stared down at the one hundred line SAT passage in amazement. I was quite skeptical that I could correctly answer the tricky multiple-choice questions without reading every line. He started the timer. I began jumping from paragraph to paragraph with intense concentration. I soon finished all of the questions with moments to spare. It was now time to see if this technique worked. Sure enough, I had answered all but one correctly.
When I realized that these simple strategies could boost my score dramatically, I began to wonder: what does this say about the validity of the SAT? What is one's true ability: the score before one is coached or the score after? This experience leads me to believe that the SATs should be eliminated as a requirement for college admission.
Other factors reinforce my belief. For example, many psychologists think people possess a wide range of abilities, not just the verbal and mathematical aptitudes measured on the SAT. A person can be blessed with a talent in art or music. Certain people have entrepreneurial inclinations. Others excel in drama. Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner suggests that people have at least seven different types of intelligence. Thus, for success in later life, one's knack at composing a piece of music may be just as critical as a person's capability in answering an analogy question.
The importance of an individual's "emotional intelligence" as a factor in making one successful is now being studied. In short, the "EQ" concept credits a person's qualities of graciousness, empathy, patience, and skill at interpreting a social situation as some of the primary ingredients for success. These abilities are not measured on the SAT. When I think of who in my class will succeed, I consider ambition, perseverance, and confidence as some of the marker qualities for achievement.
Furthermore, if coaching works, then an individual's financial situation becomes a factor in the SATs. What about those who cannot afford to take an SAT preparation course? Should less affluent students be subject to such a disadvantage? The playing field is already uneven because poorer communities spend less to educate each student than wealthy towns do. Does this mean that students can buy their way into college?
Issues of speed play an important role in the SAT. For example, why should speed and performance be intertwined? Should a person who is a slow reader be penalized because she did not finish all of the test? If someone is a methodical and thoughtful reader, does that mean that she is less intelligent than a speed reader?
A few colleges, including Bowdoin and Bates, have eliminated the SAT as a requirement for admission. They have found that students with comparatively higher scores perform at about the same level as accepted students who chose not to submit their scores because they scored lower. They believe that SAT scores are not significant in predicting the success in college. Studies have shown that the most important factor is one's high school record, which measures not only ability, but one's motivation and perseverance as well.
The SATs also have psychological consequences. This whole college process spawns unhealthy competition. Think of how a student must reel when receiving a low score. Suddenly, a number is placed as one's worth, and the person no longer feels "smart." A person's confidence and ego can be crushed.
I believe that a student's high school record, coupled with activities, recommendations and interviews should be sufficient indicators of their ability to succeed at a college. After all, what do the SATs measure anyway? f
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.