Sunday, March 13, 2005

SAT Sells Out; Mouth-Breathers Still Whine

The SAT has changed. A writing section has been added, and analogies questions are gone.

I am not impressed.

The SAT has always been something of a bogeyman to students and certain others who claim the test is culturally, economically, or racially biased, or otherwise unfair. Since the test evaluates reasoning ability and not substantive concepts (as far as is possible), these criticisms seem to reflect rather poorly on the shrill voices of complaint and not on the test itself.

The changes have only recently come into effect but have been planned for years, so while the topic may seem like old news, I have only just heard about it and there has been a sudden explosion of articles about it. Most of them have unintentionally funny, or stupid, quotes, and the one I selected is no exception.

The College Board said it was changing the SAT to better reflect what students are learning in school.

"What students are learning in school" is "not much." The test presumably had to be dumbed-down further because even with its small reliance on substantive knowledge (since, as I have said, it is a test of reasoning and not knowledge) it must have been confusing students. The test obviously has to assume some knowledge of mathematics, grammar, and vocabulary, or otherwise no meaningful questions could be asked. Since the knowledge required is (or was even when I was in grade school) taught before one even enters high school, this shouldn't be a problem to any but the slowest of wits.

The College Board probably meant "how students are learning in school," since what they are learning is almost entirely irrelevant.

Still, Amanda Corcos, 17, of Oak Park, said she was glad the analogies had been removed because it was not something she spent much time studying in high school.

I never studied analogies in high school. Does anyone do this? Did this ever constitue a part of anyone's syllabus? The SAT's analogy questions were designed to evaluate one's understanding of the relations of meaning among several words. Analogies tested verbal reasoning and the understanding of connotation rather well, and if one actually understood the words in one's vocabulary rather than remembering a bland and potentially misleading dictionary definition for each word, analogies would present no problem. It is a bad omen that this girl thinks one should have to "study" analogies.

Now that the SAT has a writing section, a third of the test is subjective. SAT scores are going to mean even less now. The verbal section is also easier and less meaningful with the absence of analogies.

Instead of lowering college standards, how about we let fewer people into college? Instead of reducing the value of a degree to the point that it becomes worthless, just so everyone can get this now-worthless degree, how about keeping college open only to those with the intelligence to do the work?


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