Will this be on the test?

The SAT is dropping analogies and adding an essay. In the future, it may test for judgment, study skills and creativity. The Boston Globe reports on possible questions:

What would you do if you had already eaten lunch when you realized you didn’t have the cash to pay for it? . . . How would you ask a professor you didn’t know well to write you a recommendation? Or: Write a story entitled ”The Octopus’s Shoes.”

Researchers are trying to test for qualities ”other than cognitive ability,” according to Wayne Camara, the College Board’s vice president for research. You’d think cognitive ability would predict college success better than creativity, but Robert Sternberg, a Yale professor of psychology and education, says his alternative tests are better predictors, while reducing the racial/ethnic scoring gap.

. . . Sternberg, who is now president of the American Psychological Association, developed what he called the theory of ”successful intelligence,” which holds that all people have three kinds of abilities: the analytical ability that is the focus of most standardized testing; the practical ability he also calls ”street smarts,” and the creative ability to adjust and invent.

Underpinning all three is the ”tacit knowledge” that helps people handle everyday encounters and situations. All but analytical ability, he says, are measures overlooked by traditional tests such as the SAT.

”There are people who are really good at traditional tests, who may get 800s, and then when they get out of school, that’s the end of the story for them,” Sternberg said. ”They don’t get along with people. They don’t persuade people to listen to them.”

College Board also is funding research on ways to test students’ judgment, study skills and insight into their own strengths and weaknesses.

The purpose of the SATs is to evaluate students’ likelihood of success in college, not whether they’ll do well in later life or be fun at parties. If judging the humor of their cartoon captions is a better predictor of college success than asking them to solve math problems, so be it. I can just see the SAT prep courses where students will drill in “tacit knowledge” and creativity.

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