The SAT: a “fair” way of testing academic capability

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The Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT,  can induce a great amount of stress in students taking it. The hours of work, the expensive tutors, trying to juggle your mass amounts of course work while still trying to study for the SAT; it seems like an impossible feat. However, if you want to go to a university in the United States, you have no choice but to put yourself through the stresses and strains of standardized testing.

Before I explain why the SAT is not as innocuous as one may think, I will explain how the College Board defines the SAT. The College Board states that, “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.” Seems pretty fair and straight forward, right? Not really. The SAT math section is Algebra I and Geometry, which some students study in Grades 8, 9, and 10. Advanced students, who may be in Grade 12 AP Calculus or AP Statistics, and who are planning to take the SAT are now reviewing basic math they did years before. To top it all off, you have three hours to write the test, which contains many lengthy sections, such as math and critical reading. The SAT tests endurance, speed, and basic math and grammar; therefore it has little to do with assessing your academic readiness for college. “Often it leads to students and teachers teaching to the test and focusing too much on directing the test criteria towards doing well on that test. It does not value the true aspects of learning,” says BSS guidance counsellor Ms. Warrick.

Furthermore, studies have shown that SAT scores often correspond to socio-economic class. Students from more affluent areas such as Forest Hill will have the money to get an expensive tutor to help them prep for the test, while students in other areas, who may be just as academically capable, may show lower scores on the SAT solely due to lack of resources. Top SAT tutors in New York command $500-$1000 an hour, a price that is only manageable for a very specific demographic. Therefore, the College Board is not correct in stating that the SAT is “fair to all students.”

As valid as some of these arguments may be, the College Board will not be ridding the world of standardized testing any time soon. Getting rid of the SAT would mean that universities would have to flip through almost every single application rather then just looking at the test score and putting them into the “yes” or “no” pile. Universities want to see well-rounded students who have a solid resume and many extracurricular activities, but how can students fill up their resume when they are stuck studying for the SAT at 2 am? Of course, students with high SAT scores will state that their SAT score is a large part of why they got into their university, but before you start to explain why the SAT is fair, think about the resources around you, the opportunities you are accustomed to, and the school you attend. Only then can you make your argument.