Seven reasons the SAT is NOT the ‘Spawn of Satan’

Taking a Test

By CARLY WANNA, Gazebo Editor

Carly Wanna Mug
Carly Wanna

Everybody loves to attack the SAT, whether fussing over the added stress, the unfairness of the test, or college’s alleged reliance on the test for admissions.  I took the SAT on January 23 (incidentally the last date for the Old SAT), and I must say–it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  

Sure, I had to get up a little bit earlier than my normal Saturday awakening.  Maybe I did have to study for weeks beforehand.  However, the SAT could be a lot worse than it is. I hate standardized testing just as much as the next high schooler, but, at the end of the day, the test is necessary, and it’s not the medieval torture device people make it out to be.

While the College Board has its own set of difficulties, including frequent website crashes, here are 7 reasons the SAT is one thing the College Board is doing right.

  • The SAT can be studied for.  Regardless of what some pessimistic students say, people can study for the SAT.  Go to any Barnes & Nobles in America, and there is likely a section devoted entirely to study materials for standardized tests like the SAT.  The test itself follows a distinct pattern; the math sections operate off of certain types of problems that are recycled throughout the exams, and the essay can be reduced to a simple formula that yields a high score for even remotely apt writers.  The critical reading sections seem to have the most versatility, but even the passages typically fall into a discrete set of categories such as scientific, creative nonfiction, fiction, or historical excerpts.  Dr. Katz, Ms. Fleming, Ms, Ferrari are among the several teachers who tutor in their respective subjects.  Study aids, and free online resources are available for the SAT, and a number of students increase their score on the SAT simply by just taking it more than once.
  • The SAT is a test of intelligence.  It seems contradictory, I know.  However, while it can be studied for, the SAT is ultimately designed to measure intelligence.  Such a task proves difficult, but the exam does a fairly good job at it.  Academics today largely reflect a mass produced system geared around preparing students for college, and, furthermore, the standardized tests that will get them there.  Scores on AP exams often reflect a teacher’s ability as much as it does a student’s, but the SAT revolves around a collection of learning that students have gleaned throughout their academic careers.  The New SAT (see #3) also strives to remove some of the more prejudiced aspects of the test.  
  • The SAT is readjusting. Come March, the College Board will release the New SAT.  This redeveloped test is essentially SAT 2.0 (or 3.0 or 5.0 or 98.0), and promises to banish most of the kinks of the Old SAT.  The most anticipated change is the expulsion of the vocabulary portions of the test, a dreaded series of questions that favored a certain class and bore no relevance on a student’s intelligence or aptitude.  The reading and writing sections will be combined into one section called Reading & Writing and Language, and the math section has been slightly restructured. In addition, the essay is now optional and students will receive 50 minutes as opposed to 25 minutes to craft their masterpiece.  The New SAT will be scored out of 1600 instead of 2400.
  • The SAT has a great scoring system. If a student skips a question, he/she simply does not earn a point.  If a student answers a question incorrectly, they receive a deduction of a mere .25 points.  In addition, the SAT encourages students to make educated decisions based on the material.  In fact, many sources say that even being able to eliminate one option means that a student should guess.  
  • The SAT offers accommodations for disabilities. Documented disabilities presented to the College Board could yield special test taking accommodations.  Qualifying disabilities include blindness, motor, physical, or mental impairments (including ADD).  Students must have documentation of such conditions to receive such accommodations that could be helpful in the test taking process.  Such accommodations include, but are not limited to, extended time, longer breaks, a private room, or computer usage.
  • The SAT can be taken more than once.  Technically, there is no limit to how many times a student can take the SAT, and many schools will never know if a student took all 7 test dates in a year.  A small minority of schools require students to send all of their SAT scores, but most colleges allow students to Superscore, meaning that they will consider the highest score on each subsection, regardless of if these scores come from different tests.  This means that, for the most part, if a student botched the SAT once, he/ she can try again next time. And the time after that. And the time after that.  So long as the kid has the money or a test fee waiver.  
  • The SAT doesn’t count for all that much.  While the SAT may seem like the end-all-be-all of college acceptances, it’s simply not.  In fact, most admissions offices consider SAT scores as secondary to GPA, followed up by extracurriculars, interviews, community service, etc.  Most colleges accept a wide range of students with varying standardized test scores based on the strength of the other portions of his/her application, and very few colleges will immediately rule out a student for not meeting a strict range of scores.  Today, some institutions like Furman and Wake Forest don’t even require standardized test scores.  Plus, say a student cannot score well on the SAT to save their lives, he/she can always take a whack at the ACT.

***Disclaimer: Not doing well (or as well as you wanted) on the SAT does NOT mean you’re not smart.  One exam can never truly measure your intelligence or ability- see #7.

So head high everyone. We’ll have to make it through testing together.  See you in March.