The SAT: A race to nowhere

Jodi Marcus

Staff Writer

It’s everyone’s favorite season! No, not holiday season. It’s time for the SATs. Quite opposite from the happiest time of the year, these next few weeks will be the start of anxiety, stress and apprehension about the future for many juniors.

In the midst of weekly tutoring and practice tests, it is hard to look at the bigger picture of what this test really is: The SAT helps schools select students because the format is universally standardized, whereas other grading systems vary from school to school. For example, an “A” in a U.S. history class at Milken may be much harder to attain than say, at a public school in Mississippi.

At the same time though, the SAT is not necessarily an equal measurement of abilities across the board. Unfair advantages create an unequal playing field. Money is a big contributing factor, with the price of SAT tutors on the rise. Some students have the resources and time to start studying a year before their test date; others do not start until two weeks before if at all.

Even if you are lucky enough to have those advantages, the SAT is just another burden to an already hectic junior year. Actually, having access to tutors and practice tests can make the SAT an even bigger burden. Because you have the resources to succeed, you are expected to use them and see results.

With all of this preparation for the test, many students view a perfect 2400 as their goal. In reality though, perfection is almost unattainable and frustratingly so.

“At a certain point, the difference between a great score and a perfect score on a section could literally be a matter of three questions,” Donna Lazar, a popular SAT tutor, explained.

For students who are scoring low, the “perfection” that is being dangled in front of them seems painfully far away. For those who are close to that 2400, “perfection” is so close they can taste it, but can never fully indulge. It’s a race to a finish line that does not exist.

Because success on this test is measured based on personal standards, tension and competition are created amongst friends and peers. While one student might be unhappy and disappointed with their 1900, her best friend might be thrilled to even achieve a score of 1700.

Regarding this sense of discomfort, Brandon Weiss ’14 remarked, “I took an early SAT and immediately friends asked me about my scores. This pressure made me pretty uncomfortable because no matter how I respond, it would most likely leave one of us feeling insecure. This self-inflicted problem would be eliminated if students decided not to discuss scores at all.”

Many students are further frustrated because a number is representing what they are capable of accomplishing. In truth, this number is not an accurate picture of a student’s identity.

Psychologists have identified three distinct aspects of overall intelligence: analytical, creative, and practical. The SAT really only assesses analytical abilities. How much can a standardized test actually prove your intelligence and character?

The SAT score may demonstrate that a person is either naturally intelligent or hardworking, but it is not the only method of indicating such. According to this study, high school grades have a higher correlation to success in college than do SAT scores.

So as we enter this hectic season, Mr. Mankuta, college counselor, proposes, “Let’s all take a deep breath. The results of testing are only a fractional deciding factor in what is a comprehensive and holistic college admissions process. I firmly believe that at the end of the day, all of our students will end up at a school that is the right fit for them.”