To the people at the College Board: Thank you for redesigning the SAT, effective spring 2016. No, seriously. Even though I will be the last class to take the regular SAT, I appreciate your kindness in not making future generations memorize words like "execrable" and "lassitude" and declining to take points off because I'm human and occasionally answer questions wrong. But while I thank you for trying to make it better, the only way to make the SAT perfect is to get rid of it.
The SAT is a 225-minute race to the finish line encompassing everything schools have been trying to prepare students for since pre-school. It doesn't really test math, writing and reading but mainly test-taking strategies like process of elimination or lucky guessing. That's problem No. 1. The SAT claims, "The SAT provides a trusted, globally recognized indicator of your academic readiness for college." However, the well-known Princeton Review study aid says on one of its tips that the SAT "doesn't measure intelligence. It can't possibly measure your future success in college. The SAT measures one thing, and one thing only: how good you are at taking the SAT."
Knowing thousands of vocabulary words and how to write an essay in 25 minutes does not seem like they will be the keys to success in college, and the truth is, they aren't. Study skills are. William Hiss, a former admissions dean, said in an interview with NPR that if students "have good high school grades, they are almost certainly going to be fine."
Problem No. 2 is the SAT is financially biased. To do well, many people have to take it numerous times and repeatedly pay the $52 fee. Fee waivers are available, but there are many limits on who can receive them. Many students also spend up to an additional $2,000 on SAT courses, books and other practice tests to give them an advantage. It's like giving two students a geometry test — one who took a geometry course and one who didn't. The student who takes the course has a tremendous advantage, which is not fair to the student who wasn't able to take the course.
Another problem with the SAT is the structure. Taking an almost four-hour test is mentally exhausting, and having only two five minute breaks makes it even worse. Five minutes barely gives one enough time to go to the bathroom, let alone have a snack and prepare to take the next sections. Also, what most people don't realize is that one of the sections is not graded at all; rather it's a section of possible questions for future tests. The test is designed in a flawed way too, easier questions tend to come in the earlier sections when one is fresher, and harder questions come at the end of the test, when one is fatigued. As much of a scholastic test as it is, the SAT is also one of endurance.
The SAT is treated as far too important. A perusal of various colleges' profiles on the College Board website shows that most rank the standardized test as either "very important" or "important" while other factors like extracurricular activities and talent were much lower.
Finally, the SAT is portrayed as the single test that can make all your college dreams come true, which is not true. It's tied to significant scholarships, sure, but that also puts enormous amounts of pressure on students due to the obscene cost of college. The SAT is definitely not a fairy godmother, and doing well still doesn't guarantee a spot at your top choice.
So while this summer's graduating high school seniors become college freshman, and the next batch of students starts the mayhem of test taking, one thing is for sure — the SAT is not as stupendous or prognosticative as the College Board thinks it is; rather it is just abysmal.
Marin Langlieb is a rising junior at Dulaney High School and aspiring columnist. Her email is Marin.email@example.com.
To respond to this commentary, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and contact information.