News Day Tuesday: College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SATs

Ahhhh…SATs. Dontcha just love ’em? What’s not to like about getting up early on a Saturday morning to sit at a school desk for almost 4 hours, filling in hundreds of little bubbles with a number 2 pencil, for a test that might determine which college you get into? And omigosh! What if you don’t do well and don’t get into a good college and don’t get a good job?? You’ll end up poor! And homeless! On the streets! Fishing through trash for half-eaten sandwiches! THIS TEST IS GOING TO DETERMINE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!

Well…now is it? A recently released report on the relevance of college admissions tests (like the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT) doesn’t seem to think so. In fact, after a year-long study, the committee recommended that colleges move away from using these kinds of tests as part of the application process, and instead focus on more achievement-based exams like the SAT Subject Tests, the APs (Advanced Placement), and the IBs (International Baccalaureate). The argument is that students should focus more “on high school courses that, based on evidence, will prepare them well for college and also prepare them well for the real world beyond college, instead of their spending enormous amounts of time trying to game the SAT.” And because getting into college is so competitive right now, many students are paying for additional preparation and tutoring for the SAT (or ACT), and this puts lower-income students at a disadvantage. But don’t take my word for it. Read the article here.

Now, in defense of the SAT Reasoning Test, it was originally intended to give disadvantaged students a fairer shot at getting into college. Ironic, huh? The man who came up with the original SAT felt that not all students had the privilege of attending schools that prepared them well in the basic subjects, but that students with high aptitude had the potential to do well in college, and so should be given a chance. But many people now argue that the SAT does not, in fact, measure aptitude or reasoning ability, and so should be done away with.

So what do the rest of you think? The SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT is required by most U.S. colleges for admission. Do you think these tests should be eliminated as part of the application process? Do you think these tests measure reasoning ability?

What about achievement tests? Do you think tests like the SAT Subject Tests, the APs, and the IBs are fairer?

What about all you gals of the international persuasion? Do you have to take reasoning or aptitude tests to get into college? Do you have to take any kind of tests? What do you think about the college application process in your country? Do you think it’s fair?

If you had the power to change the college admissions process, what would you do differently?

P.S. – For those who are taking the SATs this Saturday (or Sunday), good luck to all of you! Get enough rest, be confident, watch your timing, read the questions carefully, and avoid careless mistakes. 🙂

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14 Responses to “News Day Tuesday: College Panel Calls for Less Focus on SATs”

  1. Audrey Says:

    I’m a university student in Singapore, and here entry into college is based on mostly on ‘A’ level grades. For those of you in the US system, might not be familiar with ‘A’ levels.. It’s the Cambridge examination system and I think in some ways it is similar to subject SAT tests but it has mostly open-ended questions which means we have to write short answers and also answer some essay questions. Students normally take 3 or 4 subject papers (such as Biology, Physics, Economics, History, Math, etc.), plus a second language paper and a compulsory General Paper which tests English comprehension skills, analytical skills, and knowledge of world affairs and general knowledge.

    Apart from that exam, we also have a score for extra-curricular activities like sports, charity work, school clubs and such. Most of the college courses also require a personal interview and some courses ask for character references from teachers, but overall there is a very large emphasis on the A Level grades. Over here, the A Level exam syllabus is taught in schools throughout 2 years of junior college and even before that, in secondary school, the education more or less prepares you for what you will learn at junior college. You can get into the top secondary schools and junior colleges based solely on your grades and from there receive the best training for the A Levels. So you don’t NEED to be wealthy to do well. However, there is a huge trend towards hiring personal tutors outside of school, so I think this is where the unfair advantage may come in, but I feel that this is inevitable in any kind of examination system.

    As for the SAT test, I took both the SAT I test and a few of the subject tests a few years ago to apply to some US colleges. I thought that the fact that the tests are almost all multiple-choice questions makes them potentially an inaccurate reflection of a student’s aptitude. It is easier to make lucky guesses without much skill and also easier to cheat! I’m not familiar with the IB exam but I think it doesn’t suffer from the same weaknesses so I’d say that generally, exams which have more essay components are better able to test students’ reasoning capabilities.

    Lastly, on the topic of college admissions in general, I think less emphasis should be placed on grades from any kind of exam. Of course this should still be the primary method of sorting students into broad brackets, but I think that interviews and character references should play a big role as well so that students who have maybe done not so well can still have a chance to show that they have potential and have a positive attitude. In the end, what a college looks at should depend on what kind of students it wants to admit. If it’s looking for students who are good at memorising stuff and spending long hours in the library, its admissions process will probably be different from a college that is looking for more all-rounded students or students with a positive learning attitude.

    So I wouldn’t really change anything about the admissions process because each college knows what kind of student it wants and will know how much emphasis to place on things like the SATs. Just because SATs count doesn’t mean they’re the be all and end all of everything!

    If you read all the way till the end, sorry for subjecting you to such a lengthy exposition!

  2. Allie Says:

    Ughhhh….SAT’s….
    I am SO glad that I don’t have to take those again!
    The first time I took them, it was my birthday, and I hadn’t studied, yeah, pretty much the last thing that I wanted to be doing, but I actually did pretty well on it! (of course, not as well as my older sister, who had set the impossible standard of a 1510/1600 in our house…gee thanks sis.) Then I took it again, and studied really hard and I actually did worse that time. Weird.

    I also took the ACT test, and for some reason, I just didn’t do well on.

    I don’t really think the tests are a very accurate measure of reasoning ability, especially because you can start out fine, but by the middle you’re completely brain fried, so if your test ends up with all of the language first and then all of the math at the end ( or vice versa….when usually they’re spread around more) you can end up bombing one or the other part. Or say you get super nervous and just freak out. Or say you’re a straight a student, but the night before your goldfish dies and you’re really upset, so your mind isn’t on the test. Any number of things can go wrong, and I know that you can retake it, but still….

    To be honest I’m not sure what would be a better way for college’s to decide on applicants, but I do think there should be a different system in place.

  3. Susanna-Cole Says:

    Well… being the little rebel I am, I refused to take the SAT. I was not going to let a test determine the rest of my life, it wasn’t worth my time, and my worth should not be measured by one test.

    Of course everyone at school told me I was crazy, and that I would never get into college with taking the SAT. I didn’t know whether this was true or not, but I still wouldn’t take the test.

    As it turns out, the art school (which happens to be one of the best art schools there is) I’ll attend, should I choose to go to college (I’ve been getting places without college, so I’m not sure I’ll go), doesn’t require you to have taken the SAT or your SAT scores!

    I’m glad I stuck to my guns and refused to give into pressure, cause heck, I saved my self a ton of studying, headaches, and well, pressure pressure, pressure, AND so far, not having taken the SAT, hasn’t hurt me one bit or put me at any disadvantage.

    I personally think the importance that schools put on the SAT should be stopped. Most teachers don’t even like the SAT, and the students certainly don’t. Why can’t everyone just say “no” to the SAT?

    xoxo,
    S-C

  4. taylor nikole Says:

    oh no, don’t remind me!
    I have the psat on the 18th
    and then the SAT next year :-/
    they are so stressful, eventhough
    far away

  5. t Says:

    I hated the SATs just as much as anyone, but I think it should be kept.

    1) colleges have already started looking at the whole application rather than being dead focused on SAT scores. People w/ high SAT scores don’t necessarily get into all the good schools; vice versa, you still have the chance of being accepted even if your score isn’t that high. I know that cuz just in my college, ppl’s SAT scores vary widely and ppl who got 1600s got in when some who got 2200 didn’t.

    2) the level of difficulty of the courses at different schools vary – an AP chemistry class may be wayy harder for one school than for another. They have to set some sort of standard to measure everyone’s knowledge on the same level

  6. Binks Says:

    SAT’s…haha….my word. (btw: I signed up for them and completely forgot it was this saturday, thanks for the reminder! haha)

    I’ve taken them already, once, and I found that I did the exact same as my PSAT’s, which was mediocre at best (probably cause I didn’t sleep nor study for them :P) The test, in itself, isn’t such a ridiculous concept, most of the stuff on there is pretty basic so in a way, if you don’t know that, it means your not really prepared for the rigor in college. The problem is, like the article says, the colleges put waaayyy to much emphasis on the importance of the test. Literally with 100-200 points difference it can determine whether you go to Columbia U or SDSU. I’ve talked to College Admissions Counselors, most say don’t even try to apply to certain schools if your test score is below 2000 (btw I’m talking on the new scale of 2400) Same goes for the ACT, lower than a 29 (scale of 36) might as well forget it. (I’m planning to take it, but people say it is a bit easier than the SAT) Also, the cost. The test cost isn’t bad, it’s like 40 dollars for the SAT and 25 per SAT Subject Test, it’s the prep that takes a a hit to your wallet. Left and right you see adds for tutors and programs to help you with the SAT’s and that alone is hundreds of dollars. As if students needed more things to spend on, since College alone costs more per year than what most modest family homes make.

    I think the SAT’s can help see if you have a test taking ability and if you are ok if you get into college, but on another note, I know a lot of students who are smart and suck at taking tests, so the SAT’s is a hindrance. The SAT’s and ACT’s aren’t bad, it’s the College’s imposition and adoration of such tests that leave us wanting to do better on them. If Colleges didn’t put so much emphasis on it, students wouldn’t get nervous breakdowns every time they signed up for a Reasoning Test.

    I’m an AP student, and usually we get classes mixed with IB, so I may be biased when I say this. 😛 I love AP, haha. The rigor can cause me to lose hairs at times, but in the end I learn eons more than I would taking a regular class or trying to prep for a stupid 4 hr test. Not only that, but both IB and AP are college level courses, so if you can pass those annual tests it not only proves you know the material, but also that the difficulty level is an adequate portrayal of the same level of difficulty College would have, so it shows your determination and readiness for such classes. These tests are pricey, with $86 dlls per AP test and $120 per IB test (First time, after 2 or more tests of IB the price lowers to I think $50…not sure) but, if you have reported your household income and it is lower than a certain standard, the fee diminishes substantially, as AP now costs $5 dollars per test and IB $25 dollars- completely free, depending on circumstances. So in retrospect it looks like AP and IB would be more pricey, but if you include SAT Prep, SAT becomes more expensive than taking AP and IB courses.

    I don’t think SAT should be taken out, I just think it doesn’t deserve such a high regard when it concerns admissions, it should be like a bonus that you scored good on those tests instead of a requirement that you slave for hours at a time to master the tricks and trade of a friggin long Saturday morning test. The Colleges, seem to notice this because a lot of them are acknowledging your High School course rigor more and more, along with GPA and extra curricular activities. Either way competition for College entrance right now is ridiculous, it’s like all these dogs fighting for a piece of meat, and it’s only going to get worse as time progresses, if something doesn’t change.

    P.S: For those of you youngin’ not knowing what IB or AP is, they are year long college level courses, with a test at the end of the year to determine your knowledge. The difference between AP and IB, is that AP (Advanced Placement) focuses solely on College credit, while IB (International Baccalaureate) has the aim to get college credit, but also to be able to study abroad, in whatever place you so choose. (kinda like a worldwide valid High School Diploma :P) So…ya’ll smaller peeps should check it out, see if your school offers it, could help ya a lot. 😀

    @Taylor Nikole.
    Don’t fret over the PSAT, honestly, it’s not worth anything, and you have be close to genius level to even be eligible to get that “Scholarship” that they propose. As for the SAT, if you have the money take it as many times as possible (at least 2), and just buy like a study book for it if you want, a tutor is way to much money, and don’t get nervous, it’s not the end of the world. 😉

    So yeah…sorry of I rambled…again…. =( 😛

  7. MarilyneL Says:

    Here in Quebec, your notes get you to university which is called “La cote R”. Depending of the program you are trying to get in, you have to reach that note. Then there are sometimes interviews. As far as the choice of the university, it depends of which universities have your program and if there are more than one, you choose the city you prefer. And fortunately, university in Quebec is pretty cheap 😀 compared to the States or even the rest of Canada…:S

  8. taylor nikole Says:

    haha Binks 🙂
    i have my grandma telling me that i need to get atleast an 1800 if not more.
    My friend scored a 2240
    (I mean for the SAT)
    but she also wants me to do really good on the PSAT
    I really hate when people push too much :-/
    its so stressful

  9. Ver0nik21 Says:

    Well, I did take the SAT when I was in America, my friend Mauricio was so worry about his that he talk me into taking this test well since he paid I just took it.
    I did quite well score like 2360, Mauricio said it was a great score I still don’t know what it means since I just kinda took it coz of him so he can see a familiar face plus he says i have a good study face still don’t know what he means by that!!

    Well, here in the UK, I took a test call the A-level, short for Advanced Level, is used as a sort of entrance exam for some universities over here. The A-levels are graded from A to E.

    I got A+ on all the subjects I apply since you get to choose 3 to 4. I test myself in Mathematics, Economics, Business Studies and General Studies plus English which being a foreigner was mandatory.

    I think it’s much better than the SAT since you get questions which are mostly open-ended questions which means we have to write short answers and also answer some essay questions as Audrey said. And in the SAt it’s kinda easier to cheat since it’s only to fill in the right bubble.

    Hope it helped.

    xoxoxo

  10. Cecilia Says:

    I’m taking it this Saturday!
    Then I have the ACT on Oct 25th, then three SAT Subject Tests on Nov1st.
    I actually am really relying on these scores to give me a better chance. I mean I do have the grades, and these tests are so annoying. But I feel that when you do great on them it gives you this extra boost when applying to colleges. Like well she has good grades, extracurriculars, and she can take standardized tests. haha, at least thats how I see it.

  11. Tabby Says:

    I never took the SAT in high school. I did take it in elementary school (I’m not sure if its a similar test or named after something else with the same acronyms) and got the highest score in the state. In high school, I took the ACT and it was fine. I got honors in all of the levels except math, I think.

  12. taylor nikole Says:

    Tabby!
    elementary school? are you sure?
    are you sure it wasn’t a state wide assessment?
    for some reason they have become very popular…
    And highest score in the state? Smarty pants :-p

    Ah apparently due to testing, im advanced in all sujects except math…. where im at a basic level (blah, can you say bust?)

    My friend took the mock ACT last saturday and she said it was easy, except for math, but we have the same problem… apparently our brains find it hard to comprehend or learn math?
    lol

    my grandma thinks ill do okay on the SAT, since most of it is reasoning….
    and apparently im great with ‘reasoning’

  13. Jennifer Says:

    The SATs are completely based on strategy. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, it matters whether or not you can PLAN well. I didn’t take an SAT prep course because I thought it was pointless, but I did well on the exam when the time came b/c I got a review book and studied the strategies it presented to me.

    When I was applying to colleges last year, I noticed that more prestigious schools provided the applicant with a very important choice: instead of submitting SAT or ACT scores, to submit three SAT Subject Tests, which combined total an SAT score. I thought it was more fair considering what the student plans on studying in college. I’m an English/History double major, so obviously I didn’t do very well on the Math sections of the SAT. By taking five SAT Subject Tests and then sending my three best scores, the colleges were able to really see my strengths in my chosen fields of study.

    As far as AP credits go, I think they’re fabulous. With all the AP credits I received I was able to complete close to two semesters of college without ever setting foot on a campus. They are also helpful in getting in to college because they set you apart from other applicants who might have a GPA close to yours, maybe even better, but they may not be taking AP classes, which puts you ahead.

    Oh, how I absolutely do not miss the college application process!

  14. Emmy Says:

    I took 6 AP courses in high school, and it ended up helping me a lot in college. I didn’t have to take freshman writing, history, psych, and I got to start at Calc 4. It made my required course load lighter, and I got to take two foreign languages for fun! I think AP scores are what college admissions should look at the most; it proves that you can study and understand college-level material. SAT and ACT scores show that you know how to take exams, so I can see why colleges would want to accept students with good scores. Colleges are businesses, like it or not, and it doesn’t make them look good if they accept students with low test scores. There are tons of study aids and classes out there to help you take the SATs and ACTs, so it’s possible to get a good score, and it’s worth studying hard for. Just remember that your score doesn’t determine who you are as a person. And really, a year or two later, you won’t even feel the stress of taking the SATs and ACTs. You will barely remember it. So my advice is, work hard now for the future.

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