No more SAT!

Formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and then as the Scholastic Assessment Test, the SAT is no longer an acronym: it does not stand for anything. Now it is simply known as the SAT I. The College Board, the administration behind the SAT I, the SAT II, the AP Exams, and numerous other standardized tests, is quick to deny that the SAT measures intelligence, or even aptitude for that matter. Although measuring aptitude was the original goal when the test was introduced in 1926, the College Board now claims that the SAT determines how well a student will do in his first year of college. However, recent criticisms call into question whether the SAT is even an important factor in predicting college success. The SAT I has outlived its usefulness in American society and should no longer be administered for the purpose of college admission.

First of all, the SAT succeeds neither in assessing aptitude nor likelihood to succeed in college and thus does not fulfill its purpose. Originally the SAT was supposed to measure aptitude or “innate ability.” Yet, wealthy parents pour hundreds if not thousands of dollars into programs like Princeton Review or Kaplan to raise their kid’s score. In fact, the College Board itself offers free tips and strategies to help students, yet this begs the question: If the SAT is supposed to measure “innate ability,” why can students be coached to do better? It is clear why the College Board declares that the purpose of the SAT is no longer to measure aptitude but rather to predict the success of a freshmen college student. However, even in this area the SAT is obsolete. According to a 2001 study done by the University of California, achievement tests, such as the SAT II or AP Exams, and grade point average are better predictors of success in college than the SAT I. Upon examining the study, Harvard graduate Charles Murray had this to say:
The SAT’s independent role in predicting freshman grade point average turned out to be so small that knowing the SAT score added next to nothing to an admissions officer’s ability to forecast how an applicant will do in college.
He went on to say, “Adding the SAT to the other two elements added just one-tenth of a percentage point to the percentage of variance in freshman grades.” Empirically, the SAT is not the best test to measure readiness for college and should no longer be administered.

Because the SAT is not the best test to do the job, it has become not only an unnecessary but also a negative part of American society. In the early to mid-twentieth century when the SAT became popular, America’s elite colleges drew most of their students from a small set of secondary schools, concentrated in the North East. The purpose of the SAT was to find gifted students regardless of their background. In fact, the test even helped get Charles Murray into Harvard University from a small town in Iowa. Now however, Murray speaks out against the test, calling it “a corrosive symbol of privilege.” Moreover, Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier rightfully calls the SAT a “wealth test” because of the inequity it produces between the social classes of America. Unfortunately, the SAT lost its virtuous beginnings and now has a negative impact on society in America.

Specifically, less privileged Americans lack the resources available to wealthier Americans and are thus at a great disadvantage. Were America to concentrate solely on achievement tests rather than the SAT I, lower class citizens would be able to study with a textbook and would have no need of an expensive coaching class to teach tricks they would otherwise never learn. Patricia Cohen of The New York Times described it as such:
A low-income student shut out of opportunity for an SAT coaching school has the sense of being shut out of mysteries. Being shut out of a cram course is less daunting. Students know they can study for a history or chemistry exam on their own.
Additionally, according to The New York Times, a study done by the College Board shows that “there is a very strong positive correlation between income and test scores.” The study points out that the higher the family income is, the higher the test score becomes. America prides itself on equality and providing justice for all yet this test is clearly slanted in favor of the rich. Increasingly, wealthy parents “buy” higher test scores for their children. And yet, one must keep in mind that the SAT is not even the best examination at predicting college success. Clearly, abolishing the SAT I is the best course of action to achieve fairness for all Americans trying to get into college.

While common sense dictates the SAT be abolished, proponents of the test will argue that America needs some kind of standard to compare students from different schools; they argue that the SAT is the best way to meet that standard. While they are right that a standard is necessary, the SAT is certainly not the best way to find it. Achievement tests, as previously mentioned, are much more viable options than the SAT because not only have studies shown them to be better predictors of success in college, but also they provide a fairer opportunity to the lower classes of America because with achievement tests, the poor are not missing out on valuable secrets. Essentially, achievement tests obtain an exclusive benefit while avoiding the major problems caused by the SAT I and are therefore a much better way for colleges to compare students.

Just as the letters “SAT” no longer stand for anything, the SAT reasoning test has no place in modern American society. The test is not a good assessor of college readiness and it propagates a plutocracy in which the rich can bolster the success of their children while the poor have no such benefits. Although the SAT has deep roots in America and will be fiercely defended by a large test-preparation industry, ridding the nation of the test will not be as difficult as some people think. Most colleges already acknowledge that the SAT does not account for a major role in their admissions decisions. If two Ivy League Universities, such as Harvard or Yale, decided to stop accepting SAT I exam scores, the rest of the colleges would be quick to follow suit. It is time to end the choke-hold that the College Board has over the students and families of America. Write to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or any other top school and tell them to stop accepting SAT I scores. The SAT has very little to stand on and with a little encouragement, colleges will be quick to free 1themselves of it.

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runnergrl said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm
A little long and redundant, but overall this is a great essay.  I agree that the SAT isn't accurate in showing how well someone will do in college.
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