Facing ‘The SAT’

Franjo Ivankovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina, UWCiM 2011-2013)

Ever since I arrived here in UWCiM, I have heard people running around and flipping out because of “the SATs”. As a firstyear, these tests were some kind of abstract horror that impersonated itself in my secondyears. They were under extreme stress, would not sleep or eat but study all day long. At one point, all the commotion made me ask myself what the real importance of those tests is and why they matter so much. While my secondyears continued with their SAT preparation, I started some research about them, not only to find out the reason for their great importance but also because I’m going to take them really soon.

I found out that, surprisingly, the majority of US universities require not only the SAT reasoning test, but also SAT subject tests. I immediately asked myself was whether these tests deserved all the trust that we, as well as the universities, give them. Do they really provide them with enough and sufficient information about the applicants?The first article I stumbled upon on the Internet was from Time magazine and it covered pretty much the whole story, giving pro and cons, expert opinions, and analyzed statistics. Their history is rather impressive and surprisingly old, after all they were first introduced in 1926! At that point they were designed for the biggest American university, the University of California. And ever since, universities just kept on joining and taking the SAT exams became pretty normal. In fact, in 2000, over 2 million students took SAT exams – a very impressive number, I think. So yes, they have a proven history, but personally I wanted to know more.

The internet is full of very convincing arguments against the SATs. Some of them claim that preparing for SAT tests is really demanding and takes a lot of time, causing students to concentrate on figuring out how to solve math riddles and learn a bunch of new words rather than study poetry or science. Looking at my secondyears, I can definitely agree with that point. Another, often forgotten argument against SATs is, that they are racist, despite the fact that College Board claims they’re checking the questions regularly and displacing all the questions that could be seen as hurtful to any cultural background or race. Statistics have shown that white Americans always score higher on the test than African Americans, no matter what social class they come from – a fact that I doubt anybody could ignore. Stanford psychologist Claude Steele has come up with a theory which could explain this phenomenon. He claims that the problem is in the self-esteem of African Americans; they’re afraid to do badly on important tests (such as SATs) and embarrass their race. He did research which showed that African Americans did better on the test when told that the test had no importance. Nevertheless, something should be done about this!

On the other hand, SATs have huge positive side, which is that they reduce the time of application process. For big colleges who receive 20000+ applicants, it’s easier to analyze their SAT test results than test all of applicants again – it saves money and time. However, it would be manageable and recommended for smaller colleges with fewer than 5000 applicants to test students based on other methods because it would grant a fair and completely reliable admission process. To be honest, I would prefer the latter.

But what about the SAT 2?After first questioning the reasoning test, students and their parents started to notice the problem with the SAT 2. What SAT 2 offers is testing in 22 different subject areas including languages, sciences and humanity subjects – sounds pretty good, right? All of the issues regarding this test were pretty much the same as those having to do with the SAT: the test wasn’t fair, and different race groups had obviously different scores.

What it all boils down to is that some universities don’t even request SATs and some of them put SATs as optional rather than obligatory. Experts have different opinions when it comes to this test because it is standardizing, while on the other hand universities would spend much more time on additional application requirements without the test. So this all leave us with the question of the importance of SATs. I think they’re unimportant but necessary; and even though they have their negative side and a lot of people disagree with them, they make application process a lot easier and faster for both, students and the universities they’re applying to. Of course this sounds a lot more convincing in theory than while actually sitting down with a 400+ page SAT prep. Book…

3 thoughts on “Facing ‘The SAT’

  1. Pingback: Franjo Ivanković

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