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.