They’re so cute at that age. The age where high school juniors begin to get that itchy feeling, that subtle pressure that just compounds with the passing of time. The feeling that can only be felt as they embark on their intrepid journey to ace the SAT standardized test.
My little brother is going through it now: frustrating nights taking practice tests, reading everything he can about improving his score. One night, I sat nearby as he studied and he called me over saying the SAT’s were ridiculous. I responded with the classic big brother machismo until I took a practice test for myself.
Then it became painfully clear: this ain’t your daddy’s SAT test. Heck, it’s not even your SAT test. In fact, the current version of the Standardized Achievement Test is more frustrating and irrelevant than the one we took ever was. And sadly, the actual content of the test is not even the half of it.
As you may know, the test recently added a writing section to be graded by a human. However, this section of the test is so new that the SAT guidebooks don’t really know what to tell you. The writing section is a combination of a 35 minute multiple choice section, then a measly 25 minutes to write an essay. The questions are worded strangely, as they force to correct sentences that no one in their right mind would write (or say) in the first place. For example, find the flaw in the following sentence: “I’m not surprised that my brother always eats twice as much as I do since he is so much bigger than me.” I couldn’t get past the fact that you just as easily say that sentence in fewer words, so I didn’t realize that the last word in the sentence should be “I” instead of “me”. This is coming from a journalism major, which either says bad things about the test or even worse things about my future in journalism. I’ll let you decide.
But just in case writing an essay that dictates your future in 25 minutes isn’t daunting enough, The College Board has recently announced that they bungled a few SAT scores. Those “few” mistakes actually ended up being nearly 4,500 students with scores that were up to 450 points off – some too low, some too high. Which, to me, sets up the hilarious scene where Billy gets that phone call from The College Board telling him that his score was too high. But shattered teenage egos aside, something as important to your future as the SAT is something that should be double and triple checked. The College Board blamed an untimely New York rain for the error in scores. The real reason is probably more along the lines of The College Board not being prepared for the surge in college bound testers in recent years.
Even if you aced your essay and The College Board reported your score right, you still have that pesky issue of applying and being accepted to a college. Colleges that used to have a strict “minimum SAT score” are now pondering what their new requirements should be. And different colleges approach this in different ways. Some will only accept the new Sat while others will accept the old. The University of Virginia originally stated that all students must have taken the old test – until the phone calls from angry parents came pouring in. Some schools, such as Marshall College, will not even consider the new writing section amongst their scores.
In spite of this, all I could say to my brother was to just give it all he could, whether the test was a wash or not is unimportant. He sat with his guidebook, dejected. Something tells me there are a lot more kids like him that are confused about the new SAT, and there are even more older siblings like me, counting their blessings that they missed the cut.