Life Too Dependent on Tricky Test

Cat Kolm, Staff Writer

The Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The SAT.

The 3 letter word guaranteed to strike fear into every high schooler’s heart.

7 times each year, 1000s of upper classmen flock to surrounding high schools to battle against the test that has come to define junior year as the toughest school year in secondary education.

The SAT is horrible.  It’s difficult, lengthy, and a royal pain to endure.  If the test was divided into separate sections on different days, or if the impact of the SAT scores on one’s future was somehow diminished, or if the test itself was simply eradicated, then maybe high school wouldn’t be such a stressful stage of life.

According to its webs ite, “The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge.”

Sounds like your average test –except that the final score becomes a factor that every college looks at before they even consider an applicant.  The stakes are a little bit higher than your average classroom quiz.

The huge blue SAT book that appears in junior’s arms around this time of year promises that “the SAT isn’t trying to trick you.”  This is laughable.  The test determines what type of college will accept you –the college board is tricking everyone into a fanatical dependency on the outcome of their test.  “The college board is not your friend.” said SAT prep instructor Tom Clements.  “They do as much as possible to trick you into making dumb mistakes.”

Since I’m prone to test anxiety, any quiz, test or exam is scary to me.  But at least I know my teachers here at Campo want me to succeed (or at least want me to think that).  Knowing that the people behind the SAT are trying to dupe me, and pull out all stops to trip me up makes it significantly more fear-inducing than next week’s chem test.

This monster of an exam is divided into 4 different categories: math (where students are faced with material they either have only brushed on or have never seen before), reading (where walls of text wait to be analyzed), writing (where subtly incorrect phrases await to be proofread), and the dreaded essay (where a broad, universal prompt and two scary pages of lined paper lurk).

The math, reading and writing sections, are complemented by a “dummy” or variable section, which is an additional 25-minute portion that the SAT uses to test new questions the student is not graded on.  Sounds pretty reasonable, right?  Except for the fact that the test distributors don’t tell you which one is the dummy section, so you have to sweat through all of them and hope for the best.

Tricky indeed.

In an attempt to make the test a little less stressful, some adults commit themselves to teaching SAT prep courses, like Clements.  These individuals often share vital information about the test, hoping to help the next generation of test-takers in the process.  One of the many helpful hints they provide is about the essay content.  “The graders can’t change your score because of a factual error, like getting a date wrong or saying Lincoln wrote the Declaration of Independence,” said Clements.  “They’re grading the essay on your ability to write, not your knowledge of historical facts.”

Another vital piece of information is about the length of the essay itself.  “You can write a beautiful essay, but if it’s only a page long you won’t get a high score.” said Clements.

Yet, the SAT still looms over every upper classman, threatening to change the course of their life in an instant.