Despicable SAT

Save Us From the SAT, writes Jennifer Finney Boylan, an English professor, in the New York Times.

The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture. The College Board can change the test all it likes, but no single exam, given on a single day, should determine anyone’s fate. The fact that we have been using this test to perform exactly this function for generations now is a national scandal.

The problems with the test are well known. It measures memorization, not intelligence. It favors the rich, who can afford preparatory crash courses. It freaks students out so completely that they cannot even think.

Boylan wants college admissions officers to consider what applicants’ “schools are like; how they’ve done in their courses; what they’ve chosen to study; what progress they’ve made over time; how they’ve reacted to adversity.” That’s very expensive — and very subjective.

About Joanne


  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    The reason colleges depend on SAT/ACT is because schools have been gaming GPA and course naming. Grade inflation and calling classes honors or AP that don’t deserve the title is common.

    Regardless of the device, those who are well connected and/or wealthy will always figure out a way to work the system. That’s probably how they got connect and/or wealthy in the first place.

    If schools want to equalize opportunity they should offer disadvantaged kids classes that do specific SAT/ACT prep. Catholic schools in my area do this for all students. Junior year is devoted to extra credit earning prep.

  2. Immigrant from former USSR says:

    I 100% agree with the comment byJoanne Jacobs,
    “That’s very expensive — and very subjective.”
    I remember getting “5″ (Soviet analog of “A”) on the written part of entrance mathematics exam at Moscow State University’s Physics Dept.
    Then at the oral math exam, in addition to “ticket” questions about some theorems, particular examiner gave me three 3 problems, which I could not solve, and got “3″ (analog of “C”.) for the correct answer on my “ticket”.
    Later (future Nobel Prize winner in theoretical physics) Prof. L. spent about 20 minute per problem, to solve each of these problems.
    In a funny way, at my MSU freshman year, I was this examiner’s favorite in his Calculus class “seminar exercises” and was getting clear “5″s from him.
    Apparently, when his attempt to stop me from entering MSU failed, he kept no grudge against me personally.

  3. I’d lke to see her memorize her way thru the math. If it was that easy, everyone would be slamming 800s without doing Kumon or whatever to get around the watered down public school offerings.

  4. The SAT gets blamed for all of the failures of the k-12 system: weak/flawed curriculum choices, ineffective/inefficient instructional methods, flawed school/classroom management (heterogeneous grouping, full inclusion, failure to remove disruptors etc) and fraudulent course descriptions and grading; all in addition to corrupt/incompetent politicians and admins. Instead of toughening up to force the k-12 system (and its enablers in college ed schools and advocacy/consultant groups) to do its proper job, the SAT is dumbing down to accommodate failure of actual education (current incarnation: CCore).

  5. What crap. Is there *any* school which uses only the SAT for admission? If not, how does the SAT “determine anyone’s fate”? It keeps you out of Stanford so you have to “settle” for Berkeley?

    Again, crap.

    • There are those who would like to return to the “olden-days” SAT, ( pre-recentering and including antonyms and analogies). There alre also those who would like to use it (and SAT II and AP scores) as the only measure for college admissions (the way most of the rest of the world sorts its students with a couple of levels of Big Tests). No documentation, let alone consideration, of athletics, ability to play the tuba, or participation (with leadership!) in activities (including what the top B-Schools call Saving the World on Saturdays). Let the chips fall where they may.

  6. well, 30 to 40 years ago, when grade inflation wasn’t so rampant, SAT and ACT scores actually matched a student’s GPA (not these days).

    When students get a GPA of 3.5 and get a score on the ACT of 11 (composite), something is very rotten in the state of Denmark and the school they attended.

    Dumbing down the SAT isn’t going to help these kids in the real world, when they actually get to college and find out they can’t actually handle college level coursework, no matter how high their GPA is.