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Is the SAT Fair or Unfair?

The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, is a standardized test to determine which high school students are ready for college.

Across the nation, universities request SAT scores. While not the only determining factor, they play a significant role in determining admission. The SAT is considered so essential to getting into a top school that many students sit for the test a number of times to raise their scores. In addition, there is a high demand for prep schools like Kranse SAT prep that teach the core academic skills necessary to score high on the test.

There is much controversy about the standardized testing that colleges require for the admissions process these days. The debate is whether it's truly an indicator of someone's intelligence or if it does more harm than good. Should colleges rely so heavily on the SAT when making their eligibility decisions? Is it a fair way to assess a student's ability and potential?

Let's look at the pros and cons to get a balanced perspective.

The Pros

Proponents of the SAT make the following arguments:

1. It's a fair and unbiased test. Since the SAT is standardized, it can create a fair comparison between all high school students who are taking the test. It compares the scholastic reasoning skills that they should have acquired by the end of their high school years.

2. GPA is an unreliable measure. The SAT is much better than using the GPA, or grade point average. The GPA is not a fair system because of three factors:

  • A student may not have been able to keep up with the pace of the curriculum due to life events like illness, the family moving, or other events. As a result, they may have a lower GPA than they deserve. The SAT, by comparison, gives those students who have fallen behind for one reason or another and got a low GPA, another chance to catch up on their missing gaps in knowledge.
  • Each school has its own system to determine how GPA is ranked, with some even using a 5.0 system.
  • The GPA can be influenced, either positively or negatively, by teacher bias. There is much room for subjective evaluations when grading classroom papers and test but with the SAT, the scoring is entirely objective—in general, students either get the answer right or wrong.
3. It rules out rote memorization. Memorization is not a necessary aspect of the SAT. The SAT is not a test of memorization of facts and figures. It's a test of reasoning ability and a demonstration of scholastic skills. Rote memorization of facts and figures just for the sake of passing the test will not help someone taking the SAT. They must understand what the information means.

The Cons

Critics of the SAT make the following arguments:

1. The test only measures a few aspects of intelligence. The test only measures the standard methods of evaluating intelligence. It is heavily biased toward vocabulary and math. However, according to the extensive work of psychologist Howard Gardner on human intelligence, human beings have multiple kinds of intelligence.

In this spectrum, the SAT only rewards students with high linguistic and logical intelligence. This narrow selection makes it difficult for those high in other intelligence areas to go to college.

2. It does not take cultural considerations into account. Students who come from low-income homes often score lower than their wealthier counterparts. It may also ask verbal questions that discriminate against race.

3. It is only a measure of test-taking skill. Although the test is designed to measure reasoning ability, it only measures how well you can take the test. If you don’t reason according to the parameters set by the test, that could indicate poor reasoning ability.

Fair or Unfair?

There is no definitive answer.

If there is no SAT, then all college admissions will be based on subjective views. This could open the door to racial profiling or pursuing a covert agenda like only admitting students from affluent families.

On the other hand, the SAT has many flaws that make it difficult to call it a fair assessment of how well a student will do in college. Is it fair for people who excel in non-academic intelligence? Does it really test linguistic and mathematical skills or how quickly and well one can answer timed questions?

While there is no sign of the SAT going away soon, we must be open to asking if there is a better way.

This is a featured post by site supporter Katherine

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