Essay prep

The SAT dropped analogies and added an essay to make the exam less coachable. Education Gadfly notes that test prep companies are crowing about their students’ results.

Paul Kanarek of Princeton Review told the newspaper Inside Higher Ed that “people are getting absurdly good results, much better than we predicted, especially on the writing test. . . . We had long suspected that the first example of the new test would be reasonably easy and that scoring was going to be generous, and it looks like that’s what happened.” The College Board scoffs, claiming that scale scores have remained stable from the last administration of the old test, and since no official figures are available yet no one has any way of judging.

If the test measures teachable skills — and surely writing a short essay can be taught — than those who can afford extra teaching are likely to do well.

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  1. I taught an SAT prep class last summer, and not one student had ever had to write a timed essay before in school, let alone handwrite it. If more schools required this kind of writing in their English classes occasionally, my students wouldn’t have had this “coachable” advantage over their classmates who didn’t get the extra help.

  2. speedwell says:

    Sure, you can coach essay writing. Easiest thing in the world if you’re analytical enough to figure out the basic steps, and articulate enough to show them to someone else. I used to do it all the time when I was an English department tutor. I could do it in a comment post. I could probably do it in an elevator, if I had to.

  3. I don’t know. This seems like a dangerous trend to me.

    After decades of gradually declining expectations this sort of development could herald a 180° turn. What’s next? Expectations that every high school graduate can read? This could lead to disaster!!!

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    The ability to write well is a useful skill. The ability to handwrite an essay in 25 minutes on a topic not of interest to the student– not so much.

    Moreover, if you go over to the SAT site and check out the samples, you see that what gets a top score is excess verbiage, especially too many adjectives, and examples that are of questionable relevance to the stated topic. I mean, if the student is supposed to write about how real people feel about some issue, how useful is it to appeal to a character in a Chekov short story? Fictional characters are not real people.

    The colleges that the student applies to get to see the student’s actual essay, which is good.

  5. Them that’s got shall get
    Them that’s not shall lose
    So the Bible said and it still is news
    Mama may have, Papa may have
    But God bless the child that’s got his own
    That’s got his own

    (Billie Holliday)


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