- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Thank you for your well-written Sept. 26 story, “SAT scores dip by 9 points.”
I wanted to make sure your readers understood that a student’s SAT scores don’t necessarily mirror his or her academic performance and that high SAT scores don’t indicate likely success in college or in life.
There are tricks to taking the SAT and a cottage industry has sprung up to teach these tricks of the trade. Some of these methods are teaching our youth the wrong message.
Many who have done extremely well on the SAT essay point to simply memorizing two or three dozen index cards with snippets from literature, history, the arts, politics and science that they can readily pull from when greeted with one of the SAT’s generalized writing prompts, like, “Do idealists contribute more to the world than realists?”
Having memorized an index card about the idealism and moral character of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a lot easier than reading the book.
Often, students are encouraged to write as much as they can on the essay because it’s been documented that SAT readers, who are under the gun to quickly read essays, typically reward longer essays with higher scores, regardless of quality.
There’s an internal logic to this testing regime, especially in the writing section. Students are greeted with several lines of printed text and then asked to identify the not-so-egregious errors. Test takers are well served to memorize (again by placing material on index cards) the 16 “Error Identification Categories” of the SAT Grammar Rules along with a few examples of each. It’s the stuff everyone hates, for instance: coordinating conjunctions and antecedent pronouns.
The reading component also has its own internal logic. Students should learn this logic and methodically read and answer one or two relatively brief reading comprehension questions a day for a few weeks. No, the article didn’t say the polar bears are going extinct. It was implied.
Learn the logic. Beat the test.
The SAT is known for its difficult vocabulary in the critical reading section. Every year we read about several students who score a perfect 800 on this section and they often explain that they started memorizing thousands of vocabulary words when they were in middle school. When they get to college their English professors are likely to tell them to write using words and sentences people can understand.
The SAT is a multi-million dollar enterprise that unnecessarily wastes our time and money, but our children are well advised to take it seriously because the nation’s antiquated college admissions process is still largely driven by it.
Pat Elder, St. Mary’s City