The New SAT Experience: Are Old Standardized Testing Methods ‘Overrated’?

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As my junior year draws to a close, the pressure to get into the college of my dreams has intensified. So many things have happened during my junior year of high school. Despite taking several AP exams and SOL’s, I’ve maintained a 3.8 GPA.  Along with my commitment to excel academically, I’m highly devoted to serving my community and making a difference at my school. I recently was inducted into the National Honor Society and I can’t wait to make countless contributions through this wonderful organization. For several years, I’ve participated in Sentara’s A Partnership to Heal Through Music as a vocal student of the Governor’s School for the Arts.  This partnership allows me to entertain the patients and staff at the Sentara Heart Hospital.  It has brought me unmeasurable joy to use my voice to make a difference in the community. Because of my rigorous schedule and my community involvement, I have been equipped with a variety of time management tools to succeed in the college of my choice. Seeing all the beautiful college campus sites and having my high school teachers offer to write letters of recommendation, without me asking, has motivated me even more to get into a great college. Despite all that I’ve done throughout high school, my life is summed up into a score without any consideration for my holistic approach to academic excellence and community engagement. How can anyone possibly know the extent of whom I am just because of a score on a test? Why are some younger children scoring higher than accomplished high schoolers when most of the test material are subject matters they haven’t learned yet? I have been so concerned about getting a high SAT score because I believed that was what colleges were looking at. But the mindset of colleges looking at applicants has completely shifted from focusing on numbers to academic rigor and extracurricular involvement. Why? If we investigate the statistics and history of SAT’s, many students are robbed from getting into a good college because of a test score that doesn’t necessarily represent a student’s academic ability.

If you think about it, you can guess on the whole SAT and get a high score.  Instead of leaving any questions without an answer, test takers are encouraged to guess because there is a chance that it maybe correct.  Even the College Board says there’s no penalty for guessing. Then how do you know if a student is college ready or not? The structure of the test has no way of measuring a student’s academic ability just based on a score.  Some students have more resources than others. 10-year-old, Catalina “Catty” Lemmon took the SAT in 2016 and her math score was higher than 80% of the 11th graders that took the test that year. With a math score of 570, she’s being called a prodigy. However, in her case, she had more resources available. Her mom put Catty through the same SAT program that she was in at 12 years old. Providence Academy is a private school that allows Catalina to learn college level material and they also provide a math program that helps her to review various math subjects. This 10-year-old had a lot of resources available to her. This is not taking anything away from her brilliance, but colleges now understand that not all students have these types of advantages at their disposal. In another case, a parent wanted to know if her son was a genius because he scored a 1570 on the SAT. Many scientific professionals answered her question in an eye-opening way. Some of them replied that her son may be intelligent, but the SAT is not a good indicator of determining if he was a genius. One expert explained that the SAT truly depends on preparation.  If an individual desires to score high on the SAT, he/she should plan to spend a considerable amount of time studying for the exam. But anyone can study for long hours but still not get the score they wanted. A student pointed out that other factors affected his score. The student stated that he could’ve gotten a 1570 too but he was tired during the test and therefore made a few mistakes on the math section. Some students are not strong test takers especially timed. So, it’s possible that a student could make mistakes on the SAT that they normally wouldn’t make. The SAT comes with so many variables and that’s why it can’t indicate if someone’s a genius or if a student is college ready.

Another problem with the old standardized SAT testing system is that if a student does exceptionally better on the test, the College Board may reject the scores for suspicion of cheating. Florida High school student, Kamilah Campbell, improved her SAT score from a 900 to a 1230. Despite this wonderful achievement, the College board rejected her score. This is discouraging for many students who study hard to get a higher score.  What’s the point of taking the necessary steps to improve if any remarkable improvement could be rejected because of suspected cheating? I thought the College Board encouraged us to study harder to get a better score. Unfortunately, Kamilah Campbell had to drop her case because the process was going to slow and she needed a resolution sooner because she was trying to get into college. Now, she’ll have to live with this traumatic experience for the rest of her life. A student named Michael Wang ranked second at his high school in California while getting a near perfect score on his SAT. On top of that, he got a perfect score on his ACT and was a national districts qualifier on the debate team. At a nationwide mathematics competition, he placed first in the state. He performed with the San Francisco opera company and sang in the choir that performed at President Obama’s first inauguration. You would think that this student clearly can get into some of the best Ivy League schools, but he didn’t. All the Ivy League colleges he applied to rejected him. Reading this, may leave you just as shocked as I was when I read about Michael’s story. The article says that the admissions reviewers want to know about the applicant and what makes them stand out. Therefore, why are SAT/ACT’s our primary focus? Top colleges are taking into account other factors when considering an applicant for admission.  The decision is not based on a score alone.

The College board recently implemented a new policy to the standardized testing system. The SAT is planning on adding the ‘adversity score’ to capture each student’s social and economic background. This will help a variety of students who feel that they have a slight disadvantage compared to others taking the SAT. The adversity scale considers housing income, curricular rigor, poverty rate, etc. But all of this is solely research based and is not designed for stereotyping because of race. Although the adversity score doesn’t change the end results of the SAT score, it gives the colleges an idea of why a student may have scored lower based on their access to resources or other factors. The best part about this new change is that if a student scores 200 points higher than predicted, he/she will be considered a Striver. So instead of getting questioned for doing significantly better on standardized testing, a student will be rewarded and praised for it. If the College Board follows through with this, It can give many aspiring college students the boost they need. What do you guys think? Is the old SAT ‘overrated’ and should the adversity score be implemented?

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Gabrielle "Bri" Pinkney

I love sharing my love of life and fashion by writing my stories about life experiences and my favorite trending styles.

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