Looking at the SATs: prep, cheating, why take them anyway?

I think Mod Squad Pete’s SAT days are now over, after taking the PSAT sophomore and junior years, taking the SAT junior and senior years, and taking the SAT IIs (subject tests) at the end of junior year. Pete is still working on his regular admissions applications, but he has had the SAT scores sent to the remaining colleges on his list.

Next month, Mod Squad Julie will get her first PSAT results, as she begins the entire process.

The College Solution offers a few facts about the SAT, including averages and averages for the subject tests.

Students who completed a core curriculum in high school scored an average of 143 points higher on the SAT than those who didn’t. The College Board defines a core curriculum as including at least four English, three math, three natural sciences and three social sciences/history classes.

Knowing M.S. Julie, she will have her own responses to the PSAT results and how much she will want to prep for the SAT. One thing I’m fairly certain of:  she won’t be asking for money to hire a test-taking impersonator, as was done on the Gold Coast of Long Island.

The SAT cheating scandal broke in September; more students were charged in November. Meanwhile,

Bernard Kaplan, the principal of Great Neck North, said he believed cheating was pervasive. “I think it’s widespread across the country,” he said Tuesday. “We were the school that stood up to it.”

New York Time’s the Choice chats with the ETS director about testing security here.

A recent survey found that 59 percent of high school students reported cheating on a test in the last year, and one in three admitted using the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. We find such behavior appalling.

Why the pressure for high scores? Take a look at the infographic to see where SAT or ACT scores rank in college admissions decisions (from StudentAdvisor, full infographic can be seen here).

Click to enlarge.

Yet, FairTest would argue that standardized test scores are not good predictors of college success.

On the contrary, despite all the differences between courses and grading standards, high school grade point average (GPA) is still the best predictor of first year college grades — which is all the SAT claims to predict. As a student moves through college, SAT scores become even less accurate predictors, with high school GPA and rigor of courses trumping the SAT in forecasting bachelor’s degree attainment. This shows just how inaccurate the SAT really is.

A number of colleges have made their admissions process test-optional:  850 Colleges Don’t Require SAT or ACT Scores.

FairTest keeps an up-to-date list of the colleges and universities that do not require SAT or ACT scores. The current number stands around 850 institutions, and every year more schools join the test-optional movement. This is good news for students who feel that standardized test scores fail to measure accurately their preparedness for college. The recent flurry of test cheating scandals gives even more energy to the push towards test-optional admissions. While most of the country’s top-ranked colleges and universities don’t appear on the list, more and more selective colleges are making the move to test-optional admissions for example, Wake Forest, Pitzer, Bowdoin, DePaul, and Mount Holyoke are all test-optional.

Finally, the New York Times Room for Debate has taken on SATs:  Why Should SATs Matter? Five informed writers offer their opinions on the topic. Interesting:  one debater says the SAT is essentially an intelligence test, another argues that it isn’t.

Here’s another thing I know for sure:  I won’t be taking it. Did you read about the Florida school board member who took his own state’s standardized 10th grade math and reading tests?

“I won’t beat around the bush,” he wrote in an email. “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

No, thanks!

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5 responses to “Looking at the SATs: prep, cheating, why take them anyway?

  1. I have to say that I’m really glad my standardized testing days are behind me, as I always got too stressed in those situations and never tested as well I should have. I’m not looking forward to going through all this again with my children.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jen. It’s really tough for students whose stress levels affect their scores. Plus, according to one University of California dean quoted in the LATimes, “The only thing that SAT predicts well now is socioeconomic status.” That comes from one of my favorite books for parents of the college-bound (which I have not gotten around to posting a review on, aargh!), Crazy U by Andrew Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson researches the history and evolution of the SAT, talks to the people at FairTest, and then (in his above and beyond move) takes the full practice test (plus writes well and makes you laugh out loud).
      I am glad that students who do well in school yet do not test well have non-SAT-requiring college options.

  2. Pingback: Is SAT prep worthwhile? « Gas station without pumps

  3. Pingback: From PSAT to SAT and all in the 7th Grade! « Sass Class

  4. Pingback: On Teen Health: using ‘good grade pills’ to get into college | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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