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Monday, May 20, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Don't Test Me

I'll never forget the day I took the SAT. It was a sweltering hot and cloudy day and there I was, sitting in a nearby Catholic high school, with three perfectly sharpened number two pencils in hand. My stomach was sick with dread.

I stared at the wooden cross hanging from above the blackboard and thought, "Look, God, I know I haven't been the nicest girl in the world, but I really want to go to college."

Then, I took deep breath and sighed. I had nothing worry about, no way, no how. I was a hard-working student with pleasing grades and my father sent me to Kaplan. All right now, 1600 baby!!!

Yeah... right.

Let's just say that my scores were far less than what I had hoped for or anticipated. Much to my humiliation, a friend of mine who made little more than "special guest appearances" to class had scored infinitely better. Wow, did I feel like a big loser.

Four years later, I am proud to boast my fourth semester on the Dean's List. Personal issues aside, one must question whether or not there are several serious flaws with the SAT as a whole. Statistically, female students repeatedly score lower on the SATs, despite displaying academic performances that are equal or better than their male counterparts. The SAT also fails to take into account differences in educational background, resulting in exams that are racially and culturally biased against minorities.

One of the SAT's main testing aspects is speed. It doesn't seem unreasonable for an exam to test a student's ability to assess and answer comprehensive questions and equations. However, where does that leave students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia? Although these students may be more academically capable than the Speedy Gonzalez sitting beside them, in the end, they will probably score lower simply because their learning tools and skills are different than the general population. The College Board does provide certain accommodations for students with learning disabilities. But how then can the SAT be considered a truly "standardized" exam?

A huge myth is that the SATs indicate how well a student will perform during their first year of college. Some of the most accomplished people I know wouldn't have even been accepted into beauty school with their scores. The College Board Web site boasts that the SAT tests "understanding and analyzing written material, drawing inferences, differentiating shades of meaning, drawing conclusions and solving math problems." But there is so much more that makes a good college student. I would love to see an SAT that measures enthusiasm, participation in school activities, work ethic, motivation and passion for learning.

One must also take into consideration that the SATs are a business. The College Board and test preparation companies reel in millions of dollars on students who must take this exam. Initially, the College Board refuted claims that test-prep courses provided by Kaplan and the Princeton Review actually help students score higher on the SATs. Now, students have the option of purchasing test preparation materials from the College Board itself. If that's not cashing in, I don't know what is.

Currently, New York and California are the only states that conduct Regents exams. The Regents is an ideal substitute for the SATs with the exception that the Regents would be difficult to standardize, considering that high school curriculum may differ state to state. Unlike the SATs, the Regents test materials are a part of students' curriculum and are more likely than the SATs to reveal which students truly absorbed and understood their classroom material and took an active part in their learning experience.

The bottom line: all the SATs can reveal is how well a student did on the test alone, and are far too flawed to measure a future college student's potential.



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