Scholastic Aptitude Test. This is a standardized test designed to determine the rough educational level of students entering college. The exam consists of a verbal and a mathematics section, with a maximum score of 800 on each. IIRC, there is about a 70% correlation between the S.A.T. score and college performance (That's what I seem to recall from a statistics class.) There has been a great deal of discussion regarding cultural bias in this and other standardized tests, as some students, particularly those from poor backgrounds with poor schools, will not do well on this test, yet, through hard work, will still be successful in college.

High scores on this exam are highly prized by students, and especially, the parents of students. I once knew a kid as a freshman in college who allegedly introduced himself as "Joe (not his real name, can't remember), I scored 1500 on my SAT." Needless to say, he was not mister popularity. A test which was popular in the South back in the day was the ACT which served a similar function as the S.A.T., but the maximum score was 32, and there were four sections instead of two. At one point, the southeastern colleges only accepted the A.C.T., but now I think the S.A.T. is accepted pretty much everywhere, whereas the A.C.T is still mostly a southern thing.

If you've applied to college recently, you've probably bitched about the SATs and noted that, frankly, they suck. You may have wondered why--after all your years of labor, AP courses, extra-curriculars, and the like--you are going to be judged in part or in whole on one number, one single number, that you earned in a few nasty, brutish, and short hours.

I thought I'd try to explain.

It's actually depressingly simple. Suppose you're the head of the admissions office. Your job is to select exceptional students, or, at the very least, to select candidates who won't burn out and fail out in a year or two. You've received, say, 15,000 applications for 1500 spots. There's no way you can read, judge, and rank 15,000 applications in the time you have available. You have to winnow it down to a smaller number of applications--to a number that you can actually read and evaluate.

The SAT is specifically marketed for this purpose. It's a test that's designed to predict success in college. It turns out that if you pick an applicant from the High-SAT group of students, you can be relatively sure that you've got a successful student. If you pick from the Low-SAT group of students, you can't be as sure. Now, remember your goal: you're trying to reduce your application pool to a smaller, more manageable size, and ideally you'll have as many successful students as possible in that pool. From which SAT group will you pick?

Yep. If you want to achieve your goal, you have to pick from the High-SAT pool. Then you can look at those people more closely to see if you can get rid of the other folks from the High-SAT pool who won't make it. (In practice, of course, you'd also probably look at the GPA or the AP scores of the Low-SAT batch to try to pick up one or two particularly good kids.)

That's it. That's all. It doesn't matter that the test covers juvenile math and uses boring reading-comprehension questions. It doesn't matter that the test doesn't give you any ability to express your true intelligence (whatever that is). It doesn't matter if nobody can figure out why it predicts success; it only matters that it does so predict, and, according to the evil monopolists at ETS, it does. Sure, it's nice that all (or most) students receive exactly the same test, but its predictive ability is most important. Heck, colleges would judge you on your nose size if that were a better predictor.

Sorry. Keep reading those Princeton Review books.

The SAT can make or break a student. High school students can break their backs making sure they study and understand their classroom materials, maintain a 4.0 grade-point average, volunteer in their communities and on their campuses and still not be admitted to the colleges of their choice, because they had a bad test day.

The SAT is a do-or-die scenario for most students. It can make or break college admission, and despite the fact that a student is a model individual, a bad test can ruin a life. The SAT is an unfair indicator of a student's ability; plain and simple.

Last week, the students of my university were served a reminder of how lucky we are. When our President moved that the SAT be dropped from admission requirements by 2003 and he recommended a new way at looking at admissions for the immediate future.

This "holistic" approach, as he described it, would be to examine the outside activities of students, include interviews and stop placing such a heavy emphasis on their SAT scores. The students of my university are fortunate, as this is the way our university has already been evaluating admissions.

But why remove the SAT? The reasons are clear.

The SAT does not measure any learned forms of intelligence. The test is beatable and does not require a student to have learned well in high school. It does require that students learn how to take it.

To do so, a student can sign up with any number of companies that specialize in test preparation. This gives students with money an extreme advantage over the hard-working students who come from modest economic backgrounds.

The SAT puts too much emphasis on one particular brand of learning and testing. Some students are naturally talented in the subjects it tests while others are not.

Those students who are not, then, give the impression that they are not intelligent, even though they may be. When a test tries to measure college-level work and thinking, it neglects students with different abilities. Some students do well because they are willing to work hard in their classes to get good grades, not because they are good test-takers.

Removing the SAT from college applications will provide a more fair and balanced ground for students, but it is only a temporary solution. The long-term goal should be to fix the public education system in California to give all students equal opportunities.

When students are taught the same material with regularly updated standards, then the playing field will become equal.

The public schools are not currently preparing students for college-level work. Private education is not available to all, so if the state is truly concerned about the publicly educated students, it needs to prepare students for the material they will meet in college, and in the SATs.

Some form of testing is necessary, but it needs to be carefully balanced so that the privileged and extremely intelligent don't have the upper hand on the students who truly work hard.

Question: Which of the following sentences characterizes the SAT I test?

(A) It is irrelevant to the original purpose that it was designed to serve.

(B) It is gender- and race-biased.

(C) It is an impediment to true learning and education.

(D) All of the above.

If you had taken an expensive test-preparation course, you might have learned that getting the right answer doesn't depend on what you know as much as knowing how to take the test. Through some combination of "POE" (process of elimination) and other test-taking strategies with clever, easy-to-remember acronyms, you would have deduced that the answer is actually (D) All of the above.

Such a test-preparation course might cost $800 and might promise to raise your score 100 points. You might consider paying an even greater amount, maybe $5,000 or more, for private coaching. In regards to the question above, your private tutor would also teach you savvy test-taking strategies. If she were honest and didn't mind exposing you to the problems of the SAT, even though it might cost her job, she might discuss the following:

(A) The SAT is irrelevant to the original purpose that it was designed to serve.

When the SAT was created in the early 1900s, it aimed to identify talented students from a wide range of backgrounds, regardless of whether they attended a weak or strong secondary school. Thus, college admissions officers would be able to fairly compare students from different schools.

Today, it is clear that the SAT's original goals of fair selection and accurate prediction have not been met. Test preparation has become a $100 million industry that ensures wealthier students a higher chance of success.

When reviewing applications, admissions officers have no way of knowing who has been "coached" and who has not been.

Also contrary to one of its objectives, the SAT is not an accurate predictor of a student's later success. Though some studies show that the SAT can predict how well a high school student will do academically in the first year of college, the SAT cannot predict whether a student will actually finish college or be successful in a future career. High school GPA and class rank are typically better predictors of success in college courses.

Furthermore, according to Harvard professor Christopher Jencks, "No other country uses a test like the SAT I to screen university applicants." Instead, other countries use tests that evaluate what prospective applicants have studied in high school; these tests better resemble university examinations and more accurately predict college grades.

(B) The SAT is gender- and race-biased.

Though females generally earn higher grades throughout both high school and college, they tend to receive lower scores on the SAT than males. Proponents of the SAT argue that this difference is due to the fact that more females take the test than males. But twice as many males as females achieve SAT scores over 700; if the difference were simply due to a larger pool of females, then females should attain the same percentage of high scores as males. In 1976, Educational Testing Service (ETS) Researcher Carol Dwyer gave evidence for the fact that a test's content can be gender-biased. In the first several years of the SAT, females achieved higher scores than males on the verbal section. ETS determined that the verbal test needed to be balanced more in favor of males and purposely added questions pertaining to subjects to which males are socialized to pay attention (politics, business, sports). After this change, males have consistently done better than females; yet, no effort has been made to re-balance the questions since then.

Furthermore, many psychologists and other researchers have determined that the format of the test (multiple-choice, speed-based, encouraging of risk-taking) is also biased against females, who are socialized to solve problems differently than males.

Not only is the SAT biased by gender, but is also biased by race. A significant amount of research has been done on what is called "the black-white test score gap," by which, in the past year, African American students scored an average of 100 points lower on the math and verbal sections than white students. The reasons for the test-score gap are numerous and interconnected, including different levels among white and black students of parental education level, quality of school systems, treatment and expectation levels from society and the educational system, and socioeconomic status.

Moreover, a type of "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "stereotype threat" can cause black students to perform more poorly on tests when they are expected not to perform well. Stanford psychologists have found this to be the case when they conducted a study comparing academically successful black students to equally successful white students.

(C) The SAT is an impediment to true learning and education.

University of California President Richard Atkinson recounted a story of visiting a private school and finding 12-year-olds drilling for the SAT. In our current educational culture, schools are encouraged to "teach to the test" instead of being concerned solely with knowledge and critical thinking skills. Students should be concentrating on their high school education and experience, not on how to take a standardized test that measures neither their ability, accumulation of knowledge or future success.

Given that (D) "All of the above" is correct, UC President Atkinson's proposal that the UC system eliminate its SAT I requirement is a step in the right direction toward equality in UC admissions. Atkinson's proposal also calls for the development of a new standardized test that would be based more on how well a student has learned the college preparatory subject material in high school. Before such a test is developed, UC admissions officers may evaluate students based on high school grades, SAT II scores and other non-academic talents and experiences as early as 2003. The enactment of such a proposal requires adoption first by the Academic Senate and UC Board of Regents.

While Atkinson's proposal could ensure a more fair UC admissions system, it is far from the end-all solution to inequities in higher education admissions and education in general. The SAT II may have a higher correlation with a student's future performance than the SAT I, but it is also fairly new; a more intense examination of the SAT II tests will undoubtedly open up a new Pandora's Box of biases and problems.

If ETS attempts to come up with a better test, an action which Atkinson's proposal is expected to encourage, the $100 million test-taking industry will follow right behind it with ways for students to crack the new test.

Teachers may follow with new ways of "teaching to the test," encouraging students to memorize facts instead of developing critical thinking skills.

Standardized statewide (or national) testing could also force a standardized curriculum among schools in areas that may be regionally and culturally very different. Who will decide this curriculum, what will be included, what will not be included, and why?

The dilemma of college admissions is only one among many troubles in our educational system. We also must face shortages of qualified teachers; inadequate school facilities, resources and technologies; cultural, racial and institutional biases; and the lack of availability of early childhood development programs.

Atkinson's proposal is a good, bold answer in a slew of such problems, one "A" that can be awarded in the educational policy arena if the Academic Senate and regents go along with it. But a truly good "report card" of equity in education won't be earned with this one high grade alone. When it comes to educational equity and college admissions, we need to keep asking the questions and examining all of the answers, and for this, we don't have the aid of an expensive test prep course to help us do so.

It has also got to be remembered that part of the reason colleges use the SAT is because it's one more piece of information they can use to choose between students. Often colleges receive thousands of applicants for just a few hundred, or few thousand, spots. Remember, not only are students vying for a limited number of spots in the class, they are also often trying to get scholarships.

I don't personally know how they choose who to admit and who to reject, but most of what I've heard and read is that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are a factor in their decision, but not the most important factor. They have to look at a variety of factors, including class rank and GPA, extracurricular activities, and essays. None of these alone would be a good indicator of how well any particular student will do in college, just as the SAT or ACT alone are not a perfect indicator. But when you consider all of these factors together, you begin to get an idea of what a particular student is like and whether or not they are what is right for a particular college.

College evaluators also tend to keep in mind that a poor SAT or ACT may only indicate that someone was not feeling at their best for three hours one saturday morning. A bad SAT does not necessarily reflect poorly on a student, but a good SAT does reflect well on a student. However, I for one am not entirely convinced that a good SAT indicates one will be successful in college.

I wouldn't be surprised if in some cases a good SAT score might actually cause one to succeed in college. For instance, say a student gets a good SAT score. After looking at all of the student's information, the college in question decides to grant the student a scholarship. Like many scholarships, this one requires the student to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA to keep the scholarship. Therefore, because the student happened to do particularly well one saturday morning, he now has much more motivation to succeed in college.

So is the SAT perfect? Probably not. However, the SAT helps give a college admissions board a little bit more information about a student, and they are seeking as much information as possible to help them decide which students to accept and which to reject.

The SAT is created and administered by the Educational Testing Service, ETS.

The SAT is the "Scholastic Assesment Test." It used to be Scholastic Aptitude Test" but they're dropping the name and just keeping it an acronym. It's the epitome of Standardized tests.

There are 2 forms, the SAT I, which is the one people usually talk about, and the SAT II, which are subject tests. The SAT I is about 3 hours, while each SAT II is one hour.

The test scoring is simple. For every question you get correctly, you get a point added to your score. For every question you answer incorrectly, you lose one quarter of a point. This is to discourage guessing, but you need to get four questions wrong to cancel out the point gained by a right answer. Leaving an answer blank gives you no points, plus or minus. If you can eliminate at least one possible choice with process of elimination, GUESS! Guess by all means, using the remaining answers. Eliminating one answer will boost your odds a great deal, and you'll get a few extra points overall. There, no need to get a review book, now that I've divulged the major secret.

The score you wind up with will become your composite score. It is then taken, and converted to the Scaled Score. The Scaled Score can be between 100 and 800 per section; Verbal, Math, or SAT II section. Basically, your score is on a grade curve. You can't get a zero, so you essentially get 100 points for writing your name,

You'll find registering and sample tests over at, the official SAT site.

I'd seriously reccomend studying for this test. You have better odds at winning the lottery than getting a perfect score on your first try. Luckily there are many ways about this. Study Books have previous tests and tips. Classes are availible at High Schools and test centers. Websites such as,, and are all helpful.

There are two major players in the SAT study industry: Kaplan and the Princeton Review. Both make it very very simple to master key parts of the test. You can find either in book form, Prep courses, and web site. Both are easy to follow, have a sense of humor, and use similiar methods. Both offer higher scores or your money back. YMMV.

To get a feel for how it influences your college chances, see Median SAT scores for Colleges

In the UK England (many thanks gkAndy), short for Statutory Assessment Tests. A series of tests in English, Maths and Science taken at the end of each Key Stage (Department of Education and Skills jargon for the different levels of learning in schools). They are therefore taken in Year 2 (English only), Year 6 and Year 9.

The two earlier English tests are taken in the form of multiple-choice comprehension questions, whereas the Year 9 tests are more essay-based (similar to the GCSE tests taken in Year 11).

Although much is made of the tests from the pupils' perspective, they are utterly meaningless in any official context, and are used only to measure the progress of students - and of course the performance of their teachers as well. How anyone can still believe exams like this are an accurate way of measuring intelligence or aptitude for anything escapes me.

Sat (?),

imp. of Sit.

[Written also sate.]


© Webster 1913.

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