Today

Do the SATs Tell Us Anything Useful?

By Andrew Shalkivskiy ’20

SAT is on every junior’s mind right now. Yet what do college admissions officers get out of an SAT score, and what are the downsides of SAT? The SAT is a national exam, simplifying the application process. SAT is also quite easy, yet this means that one or two incorrect answers make up the difference between 20-40 points. Furthermore, as with the recent college admissions scandal, buying a higher SAT score is not that uncommon. One’s SAT score can be affected by many factors and merit is not necessarily one of them, however, it provides a rare platform that can be used, by admissions officers, to compare student’s determination and sacrifice.

Before the SAT, each college had its own exam, which varied wildly, pushing a group of schools to establish The College Board. SAT as we know it today was first implemented in 1952 by The College Board. Originally, The College Board was a nonprofit centered on examination, back when only 4% went on to college. Today The College Board is successful in its original goal of administering examinations for college. In fact this national exam simplifies the college application process for both students and admissions officers. Though many are unhappy with the exam, few truly appreciate its service and usefulness.

SAT is also quite doable. Students taking advanced or AP classes are not given an advantage compared to those who are not. For example, one must know up to Algebra II to be able to complete the Math section; Calculus will not help. So, since SAT is relatively easy, the mission, therefore, is to minimize the number of incorrect answers, in order to maximize one’s score. So one’s SAT score is really about one’s determination and efforts. However, this aspect of the SAT is also a handicap as one’s score could vary depending on the curve, and it disproportionality favours rich students who have the money to get tutors, SAT camps, and other materials.

Finally, the SAT is not incorruptible, as the recent admission scandals show. In fact, some sources suggest that schemes like those undertaken in the scandals are not surprising, but an open secret. Celebrities and wealthy parents have and will most likely continue to cheat, so that their kids get into college and get a higher score on the SAT.

SAT is definitely not perfect. One’s score depends often on the curve and what tutors one’s parents can get. However, SAT provides an extremely useful service, that makes the life of both students and admissions officers easier. Furthermore, for many students a high SAT score is a matter of practice and effort, which tells admission officers about one’s determination.   

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