Congratulations! I am pleased to offer you admission…

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If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I can guarantee you that”  – Michelle Obama

Wise words from our former First Lady of the United States. It would still be accurate no matter who would have said it, but considering she is the former First Lady, that must show the magnitude of this problem with standardized testing.

I remember when I was younger, taking a standardized test was always a curveball. Sometimes I felt it really tested by knowledge whereas other times I felt the test was made just to pick at the nitty gritty details of only a few aspects of what we had learned rather than anything big picture.

What if higher stakes were involved rather than just making an A in the class? What if this one test helped determine which college you would be attending for your next 4 years after senior year? This is where standardized exams like the SAT are introduced. My first criticism of this exam is the lack of a science portion. Granted the ACT does offer it, but also considering the grading system is different for that exam, some students may opt to take the SAT because they feel the system would work more in their favor. Furthermore, I feel the SAT is more widely practiced and accepted throughout the country.

Furthermore, the next object of my criticism is the essay portion. Is this really necessary at all? Since graders must abide by a certain rubric, it is relatively easy to “game” the essay. I say relative because this also depends on your high school resources and if you had teachers or SAT prep courses that taught you the rules of how to write a “12 worthy” essay. Since it is such a standardized formula of how to write the essay, it also eliminates any value of how to relate this to real life. There is not a set and certain way to write an academic paper as it will differ depending on subject matter. This is also the reason that those certain “trigger words” that got you points on the SAT writing section will do nothing for you in real life.

However, College Board is making progress on this. Just recently, they have decided to eliminate the essay portion of the exam as well as other changes. It was probably due to the great amount of criticism thrown at them, but College Board is attempting to make the SAT more career friendly. That is, have the questions more similar to what one will encounter in real life. This includes taking out the nonsense vocabulary most of us only knew because we spend hours drilling ourselves with SAT flashcards. These will be replaced with words more common to academic papers and what one might here in the day to day job.

The other big change will be the grading system. They will no longer dock off for an incorrect answer, essentially leaving it that you gain points as you answer a question correctly. Currently unsure how this will compare to any possible changes the ACT might implement but it will be interesting to keep track of in the future.

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One Response to Congratulations! I am pleased to offer you admission…

  1. madisongoers1 says:

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Meera, I agree that there is an unbelievably high significance placed on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Sadly, scores often reflect which student is best at guessing on a multiple choice test or who has access to resources such as, taking a class, hiring a tutor, purchasing study materials, etc. Sadly, I remember setting high standards for myself regarding the SAT and looking back, I ultimately improved my score by learning strategies for taking the test, like knowing when you should guess vs. skip the problem, how to structure your essays to appeal to the few seconds each grader has to skim over your work, and when to know that the obvious answer is actually just a trick. Looking back, it’s all just a bunch of mind games. I agree that it is difficult to assess knowledge in a standardized way but I would have to hope that there is still room for improvement following the latest renovations to the SAT. I appreciate universities that are moving towards the “test score optional approach” and placing a higher weight on personal statements, interviews, and all that was achieved in high school. I wonder in what other ways we could move towards more holistic and comprehensive evaluations of college applicants? Do tests like the SAT and ACT really show demonstrate anything that cannot be measured in an alternative fashion? I would love to hear your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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