SAT Craze Fades
by The Milton Measure on Friday, November 11th, 2011
“The Perfect Score,” a film about six high school students who attempt to steal the answers to the SAT, highlights the association teens form between perfect SAT scores and a successful future. Now, seven years later, the SAT has lost much of its credibility for predicting a student’s college performance.
According to USATODAY, 24 of the top 100 liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report, do not require SAT or ACT scores. After 85 years of SAT testing, colleges have realized that SAT scores reveal nothing more than how well a student performs on a particular day, on a particular test.
Not only does the SAT not actually predict a student’s abilities, but it also causes chaos for colleges trying to improve or sustain their status in annual college rankings.
In 2008, Baylor University in Texas received a lot of attention after bribing their freshman to retake the SAT in order to raise the university’s average SAT score for incoming freshman.
According to the New York Times, Baylor University reportedly offered its students a $300 campus bookstore credit for those who agreed to retake the SAT and an annual $1,000 merit scholarship for students who raised their scores by at least 50 points. That year, Baylor spent $408,300 to raise their average SAT from a 1200 to a 1210, a mere 10 point difference.
So, why do the majority of colleges continue to rely on SAT scores to judge a student’s academic aptitude despite its falling credibility?
In an interview with the Washington Post, Edward Carroll, a standardized test expert, stated that in 1987, 27 percent of SAT takers had a GPA of at least an A-; however, in 2007, this percentage rose to 43 percent. With the percentage of A-range student nearly doubling in the last 20 years, colleges are forced to replace grade comparison with alternate processes of evaluating students.
However, the most prominent issue with using the SAT as a determining factor in college applications is that the test cannot predict how well students will learn and perform once in college. As Carroll pointed out, “the SAT, more than anything else, shows how well you take the SAT.”
Achieving a good score on the SAT requires strategy more than knowledge, a factor that further deters colleges from relying on SAT scores to judge an applicant. SAT tutors, study guides, and preparation courses interfere with the fairness of the test, for access to classes and tutors favors the more wealthy students.
Fortunately, the SAT is beginning to lose its credibility. Many highly ranked schools such as Middlebury and Bowdoin are now SAT/ACT optional. Unfortunately, the SAT remains ingrained in our culture, and until bigger name schools abolish the SAT requirement, this culture is likely to remain unchanged.
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