To demonstrate that the essay component of the SAT encourages bad writing, an MIT professor coached a student in how to get a good score for a nonsense essay.
In the 1930â€™s, American businesses were locked in a fierce economic competition with Russian merchants for fear that their communist philosophies would dominate American markets. As a result, American competition drove the country into an economic depression and the only way to pull them out of it was through civil cooperation. American president Franklin Delenor Roosevelt advocated for civil unity despite the communist threat of success by quoting â€œthe only thing we need to fear is itself,â€ which desdained competition as an alternative to cooperation for success. In the end, the American economy pulled out of the depression and succeeded communism.
Inside Higher Education has a link to the whole essay on the virtues of cooperation. The essay received a 5 out of 6, a grade reserved for an essay that shows â€œreasonably consistent masteryâ€ that â€œeffectively develops a point of viewâ€ and â€œdemonstrates strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples.”
Les Perelman, director of MIT’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, coached a student to write an essay that cited historical facts regardless of accuracy, used examples and quotes regardless of whether they made sense and included words such as “plethora” and “myriad” which scorers are said to favor.
At the Conference on College Composition and Communication in New York City, Perelman argued that the SAT’s attempt to evalute writing is hurting students, who may spend months practicing for the SAT’s writing component.
The essay is harming students, Perelman said, because it rewards formulaic writing that views the world as black and white, isnâ€™t based on any facts, and values a few fancy vocabulary words over sincerity.
Good writing should make sense.