Artwork by Eli Canter
This spring, the College Board made some major changes to the loathed standardized test, the SAT. According to USA Today, these modifications include returning the highest score to 1,600, no penalty for incorrect answers, more time for each section, and an optional essay. Although the new test format may bring a sensation of relief to many high schoolers, SATs remain an unnecessary and expensive strain, have a racial bias, and are not a perfect prediction of college or life success.
For most high schoolers, junior and senior year are the most challenging years. The classes become more difficult, rigorous APs are fit into busy schedules, and college applications are around the corner. These students are constantly being slammed with assignments, deadlines, and to increase the already-heavy burden, the SAT. According to the College Board, “the SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support and scholarships, in a way that’s fair to all students.” High school juniors and seniors spend months preparing for this four hour test that helps “determine” their futures.
Lauren, a junior at Mamaroneck High School, claims she “didn’t prepare as much as others” in her grade, but still participated in rigorous “8 weeks of group tutoring with a 4-hour class on Sunday and an optional 3-hour review on Tuesday.”
Like Lauren, thousands of high schoolers across the country are enrolled in time-consuming group and private tutoring. Tutoring is the key to doing well on the SAT, but it’s mindbogglingly expensive. According to a recent Forbes study, most private tutors charge anywhere from $100 to $1000 per session. Only the very wealthy can afford this kind of instruction.
The College Board claims “the test measures ‘reasoning ability,’” but the only aspect it really measures is a student’s wealth. If a student comes from a family who can easily afford the costly preparation it’s inevitable that he or she will score a higher grade on the test compared to another student, who may be just as smart, but not as wealthy. Charles Murray, a political scientist and alumni of Harvard University claims, “If you’re rich, you can buy your kid a high SAT score.” The higher the student’s income, the higher score they receive. This is an unacceptable but true correlation. A talented and intelligent kid’s low income shouldn’t be a factor that puts their SAT score, and future, at risk.
It has been argued that these costly tests also have a racial bias. Harvard recently
published a study proving that the SAT questions in the verbal section favor white students because they used language that white students were more familiar with than non-white students. Education Week reported that black students of equal academic ability scored lower on the section. According to an NCES study, in 2012 and 2013 the average reading score for black students was 431, 96 points behind the average of white students. These large gaps in the scores demonstrate the inequalities and bias in American society. SAT scores reflect upon one’s background and often race.
Because minorities are less likely to attend expensive and wellstaffed schools and enroll themselves in expensive test prep than white students, their scores are generally lower than those of white students. The bias in the SAT does not allow it to accurately predict the potential of kids raised in lower socioeconomic background, as these kids are often minorities. Should the College Board reconsider the statement “the SAT is fair”? Because using a test that white, wealthier students consistently do better on is an accurate measure of skill, ability, and potential life success, right?
Not only are the SATs time consuming, outrageously expensive, racially biased, but they are also pointless and a poor reflection of skill and ability. SATs are not. Former Dean of Admissions for Bates College William Hiss conducted a study showing the relationship between college success, high school grades and SAT scores. His evidence “clearly shows that high school GPA matters. Four-year, long-term evidence of self-discipline, intellectual curiosity and hard work; that’s what matters the most.” According to his data, he concluded that if a student’s GPA isn’t great, a good test score will not promise college success. Students with high grades and moderate SAT scores did better in college than students with lower high school grades and better test scores.
The president of Ithaca College, Thomas Rochon, recently made the decision to institute a test-optional policy for college applicants. His reason supports the study by Hiss, as he claims, “test scores add relatively little to our ability to predict the success of our students.” Over 850 colleges and universities across America have also instituted a test-optional policy including Arizona State University, Bowdoin College, Colorado College, George Washington University and Pittsburgh State University.
Bill Clinton was one of the most popular presidents in history. He was driven, charismatic and intelligent. These traits made him influential, successful and loved by many Americans. Did his relatively low SAT score stand in the way of his career? Nope. Even though Clinton scored a 1032, his notable qualities took him far in life. SATs are not accurately able to measure determination, confidence or perseverance. These are the traits that result in long-term success regardless of the field.
SATs are a complete waste of time, effort and money. They do not determine how well you will do in college or life; they only benefit the privileged kids, and they make high schoolers even more stressed out. This isn’t a call to action to bomb the SAT or totally neglect it, but it shouldn’t be something we take loans out for or stress over. We should focus on learning in school as most of the courses we take are interesting (sometimes), valuable and free. We shouldn’t be forcing useless, expensive and dull material into our brains just for one distressing test that is meaningless to us and our futures.
By Lindsey Randall