Testing, one, two three….

Nightmares we have known: Taking the SAT

Nightmares we have known: Taking the SAT


It’s one of those memories that does not fade and still comes calling during the nocturnal hours when some weirdo dream takes you back in time. The scene: the high school dining room, circa early Sixties, turned into a desk-jammed testing center. The stomach turns, the palms sweat: You’re taking the SAT.
Now, a redesigned SAT, ready for its close up in 2016, is “more focused and useful than ever before,” the College Board folks behind the redo tell us. For math, that means keying into three “essential” areas, including the “Heart of Algebra” (my Heart of Darkness), “Problem Solving and Data Analysis” and “Passport to Advanced Math,” fortunately a journey I won’t be taking.
When I read about the new Essay section, I thought bravo. In a world of shortcut communication thanks to all-pervasive texting/tweeting, anything to “promote the practice of reading a wide variety of arguments and analyzing how authors do their work as writers” has my vote. BUT, the essay will be an optional component of the SAT. The new SAT will be about three hours. I wonder how many kids, not applying to colleges that require the essay, are going to stick around for an added 50 minutes to write it?
In her amusing, right on Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times, “Save Us From the SAT,” Jennifer Finney Boylan, a professor at Colby College, calls the SAT “a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture.” Check. A better way of revising the SAT, she feels, would be to do away with it. The changes, Boylan writes, are “intended to make the SAT scores more accurately mirror the grades a student gets in school.” But, as she says, we’re there already! What could better reflect those school grades than those grades!
My SAT scores were in the basement. No, make that sub-basement. I didn’t become a college professor and author like Boylan, but I didn’t take up permanent residency in that underground bunker either.