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Are the SATs Fair?

Pencils? Check. Calculator? Check. Water bottle and granola bars? Check.

Anyone who has ever taken the Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly known as the SAT, knows this checklist incredibly well. Students spend months preparing, and parents sometimes spend hundreds of dollars on tutors to help their kids succeed on the SATs. I can’t help but ask myself why? Why do we really take the SATs, and what does the exam actually measure?

The SAT isn’t meant to rate intelligence or how well a student has grasped the material learned in high school. The exam is used as a tool to determine a students’ general knowledge in mathematics, critical reading, and writing. Meaning that, the test isn’t an accurate measure of how much a student knows, nor is it an effective method of determining how well a student will succeed in college.

The exam is administered, scores are released a few weeks later, and students then send their scores to their prospective universities without getting a full understanding of what they did right or wrong. If students are required to take a generic exam that tests their basic knowledge, there should be more feedback given to the students on what needs more improvement, as well as what the student does well. Feedback could be the difference between a student who takes the SAT repeatedly without knowing what he or she is doing wrong, and a student who takes the SAT more than once, but knows what corrections to make, as well as what type of academic criticism to expect in college.

Many colleges and universities use the exam as a method of determining the students they want to attend their school, but a potential student needs more than a score between 0 and 2400. If the exam is used by universities as a measurement of college academic readiness, the exam should test materials similar in nature to what students will encounter in college. Those in favor of the SAT argue that the way GPA’s are comprised vary from school to school, but because the SAT is the same for everyone, it is a good way for colleges to evaluate their potential students. On the other hand, what isn’t being taken into consideration is the fact that different schools have different methods of teaching, and not every student has been taught the basics necessary to take the SAT.

Another important obstacle that the SAT doesn’t take into account is socioeconomic background. Not every student taking the SAT has had the same form of an education as others. Should a student who went to a high school where class sizes were unusually large, teachers were scarce, and textbooks were more in demand than were supplied, be compelled to take the same test and be graded on the same than making sure they really understand the material and feel prepared for higher levels of learning, such as college. In a world where there is constantly pressure to be among the best, students are being placed under more and more stress.

High school is supposed to be a preparation for college, but if students spend a big portion of their time preparing for a test that does nothing to either help prepare for or determine their readiness for college, I have to question the validity of the exam.

From the point of view of colleges and universities, the purpose of the SAT is to have an exam that can evaluate a wide range of students on an equal playing field.

However, the SATs shouldn’t be the most important component in determining if an individual will be a good fit at a particular university. An exam that tests students on general knowledge and has no bearing on one’s college career shouldn’t be among the deciding elements in the admissions process.