The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), used by many colleges as one criterion for admitting applicants, has been widely criticized in recent years. The test, critics claim, does not require a student to show what s/he has learned, but focuses on crammed vocabulary and math skills. This is largely true. However, the SAT aims to measure aptitude, not achievement. Toward this end, the test is quite successful because it allows students to show how well they can work with given information, with or without previous experience with the given words or problems. Students who have a good grasp of English have ample opportunity on the SAT to demonstrate that ability. The questions vary from sentence completion and vocabulary to reading comprehension skills and interpretive analysis of reading. Similarly, students with a strong aptitude for math have a wide variety of problems with which to show their level of capability (e.g. geometry, algebra, trigonometry). Thus the SAT succeeds in providing a comprehensive test of students' faculties in several areas.
The SAT provides a uniform standard for measuring students and allows colleges to recognize those students who excel. A longer test, covering more topics, would probably leave some students unfairly unprepared for a given topic they had not yet studied. On the other hand, colleges need a standardized test of some sort with which to compare students and to attempt to ensure a fair selection process. The SAT may not be perfect, but it remains the best standardized aptitude test around. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.