Challenging the SAT

Justin Katz
By Justin Katz |

If College Board really wanted to improve the SAT, they would get rid of it.

As a junior in high school, I attended SAT preparation courses and practice tests on a regular basis. I despised this at the time, not because I had to study, but because it was a reminder of a contradiction high school students suffer.

Teachers, parents and college advisors believed the SAT was “just a test,” but then insisted an inadequate score would jeopardize my future.

This contradiction created an atmosphere which allowed for no margin of error.

During one such practice test, I finished considerably earlier than anticipated. My parents noticed this and asked if I was dismissed. They were told that it didn’t matter if I was finished; sitting through the entire examination period required practice.

The SAT is a glorified intelligence test, not a criminal interrogation. After a decade of schooling I have learned to sit still for hours on end. The fact that I now have to practice sitting through it speaks volumes to the kind of environment high school students are subjected to throughout the SAT.

These contradictory statements and needless stressers led to feelings of intense anxiety and inconsolable pressure.

My first time taking the SAT resulted in just that. As students stood in the lobby, waiting to be ushered into a testing room, everyone talked about their apprehension.

The 20 to 30 minutes proctors spent preparing to start the test only made things worse. Being read their carefully worded scripts was comparable to being read the Miranda Rights. There was no way to win during the test.

If I finished early, then the time to think would result in more anxiety. If I was short on time, then I started the next section worried about how I did on the previous.

Once the test ended my anxiety shifted from taking the test to waiting. I can laugh about this now because I’ve been accepted to college, but my first SAT score was not pretty.

David Coleman, the president of College Board, recently announced eight significant changes the SAT would undergo by 2016. They include, but are not limited to an optional essay that asks students to build an argument around a passage of text, questions that are supposed to be grounded in real-world context and wrong answers will no longer be penalized.

However, these changes are meaningless in the big picture.

Four years of academic study and extracurricular activities are enough to determine if a student is ready for college. I am fortunate enough to have fallen in love with a college that judges a student as a person and not as a test score. But I am aware that many students are not so fortunate.

Fixing the SATs true flaw, however, may require its permanent retirement.

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