3 criticisms of the SAT exams

Ever since the 1920’s the SAT has been an integral part of the US college application process. A high score was seen as the equivalent of a golden ticket to a great college, and consequently, a perfect life.

On the flip side, doing badly can send even the most competent students into an extinction level PANIC.


First, a little refresher on what the SAT is...

In its current form, the highest score one can get is 1600, consisting of an 800 in both the math and the verbal sections of the test.

On top of these two sections stands an optional essay that does not affect your score but is recommended by some colleges to give them a taste of your writing aptitude.

A score of 1250 would be enough to get you into a competitive school in the US like UCLA provided the rest of your application is done well.

You would be hard pressed to find someone applying to college who doesn’t stress the importance of the SAT. But, have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, the SAT itself might be flawed?


Why would the SAT be negative?

1. Deterring potential students: Potential students, particularly underrepresented minorities are deterred from applying to colleges that require a test score because they are not comfortable taking standardised tests:

● Test taking is expensive: One take costs a minimum of USD $52 and $68 if you want to include the essay plus a non-US regional fee of $40-$50.

● Stereotype threat and test performance: Claude Steele, now dean for the School of Education at Stanford has shown that minorities suffer from this bias and score lower than they normally would due to expecting themselves to do worse.

● Lack of knowledge: Minorities may not know what the SAT is and how to take it, and the schools they attend may not have the resources to educate them on the subject.


2. Lack of predictive quality: There is little relation between college performance and test scores:

● Grades are a bigger predictor: GPA is five times stronger at predicting college performance than the ACT, a test similar to the SAT, Chicago researchers Elaine Allen worth and Kallie Clark found in their article published in Journal Educational Researcher.


3. Wealth wins: Those from privileged backgrounds do better on the SAT:

● Better Preparation: Those from wealthier backgrounds can afford to buy study materials and pay for tutors that specialise in taking the SAT.

● Multiple Takes: They can afford to take it multiple times.

● Loopholes: Those from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to acquire extra time on the exams by acquiring special 504 designations typically reserved for those with ADHD and anxiety disorders.

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