Canned essays

The SAT’s new writing exam will encourage students to write short, shallow essays, writes Will Fitzhugh on Education News.

This is the sequel to the SAT II writing test, for which students have in the past spent up to six hours preparing a generic essay with which they can respond to any prompt, for instance with the help of tutors at the Chyten organization in Boston, who charge about $165 an hour.

The new test will add pressure to students already working on their micro-mini autobiographical “personal” essays which they need to submit to many college admissions officers when they apply to college.

These writing exercises then have to be added to the creative and personal and journal writing so highly preferred by many educators over the traditional old-fashioned term papers.

Students don’t prepare for college work by writing navel-gazing essays, Fitzhugh argues. His Concord Review publishes history research papers by high school students.

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  1. Fitzhugh’s publication, the Concord Review, is an interesting one, and deserves support. Unfortunately, foundations have expressed little interest, in part due to nonsensical concerns about “elitism.”

    I wish everyone who reads this would consider subscribing to TCR and aso making a contribution. More on this at my blog.

  2. FWIW, as a kid I always wanted to be a writer, and always did best in English courses, entered many writing competitions (winning some), and so on. When I took the SATII Writing test the first time I got something like 400-500 (I think I wrote an essay about Tennyson). Second time I played along with their “write like an imbecile but telegraph all the key items the scorers are looking for” and got a 700 or so on it.

    Timed essays are particularly poor judges of writing ability, in my opinion. The rigid structure required by the scoring rubric makes these essays very unimaginative. PC-mentality saps any remaining value from them.
    I wish the SAT had not caved to the petty objections. Analogies were not that difficult, most of the time. Often they were little more than tests of vocabulary. An essay is infinitely more problematic.