What is the SAT Measuring Anyway?!

How can we possibly get an accurate measure of a student’s ability based on a standardized test when each student is completely different? Teenagers are far from standard!

The Scholastic Assessment Test or the SAT test was developed in 1926.  It was adapted from the World War I Army I.Q. Test and it was developed to set a standard scale of intelligence for university admissions.  The theory was that by standardizing the test, students of different economic and social backgrounds would all be measured on the same scale.

Ironically, research shows that there is a very high correlation between income and test scores. “The only persistent statistical result from the SAT is the correlation between high incomes and high test scores”, states Leon Botstein, president of Bard College as commented in TIME magazine.  In fact, research shows that the SAT is less of an indicator of intelligence than a student’s GPA.  By using the SAT test as a measure for university admissions, we may actually be looking over well deserving, low income and/or minority students.

So what are we testing on the SAT or any standardized test for that matter?  For students who have the financial advantages for test preparation software, courses, books and tutors, as well as the time to study the format and structure as well as endurance testing for the 4 hour marathon, it seems obvious.  The College Board, the association that administers the SAT, is working on addressing some of this public criticism.  Changes are underway on the SAT (due to take effect in 2016) to make it more representative of high school curricula.  We can hope that at some point, the SAT will measure the knowledge that our students have gained over the course of their lives rather than how to take a test and the best way to spend their money to prepare for the test.  Until then, the SAT is just one of those necessary evils that high school students must endure.

Debbie Stier is the mother of two teenagers who took the SAT test 7 times in one year as part of a project to spur some initiative in her teenage boy.  Her theory was to join her son in this endeavor to teach him about motivation and the importance of not just sliding by.  Her book, “The Perfect Score” documents her journey as well as outlines the tips and tricks that can help any student suffering from testing anxiety.  She offers some humor in this seemingly boring and hopelessly standard test that necessates any college acceptance notice.

Sarah StudyingThe SAT College Board website is a great (free) way to gain some insight on the test, review the format and do some practice questions.  ProProfs.com is another great resource for reading, writing and math practice as well as some fun brain games to easy the tension.   Regardless of how much time you spend and how much you pay for your SAT practice, stress management will be a huge factor in a student’s success.  Practice proper breathing techniques to combat pre- and post- testing stress and take some snacks to carry you through.  Hopefully once is enough!




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