The SAT is Unfair and Here’s Why

By Christine Obasanya, 12th grade

Starting the search for the perfect college is a daunting task in itself, as I quickly learned when I started the search in my junior year. I had to keep in mind the importance of numbers. There was GPA: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and everything in between. There was ACT: 31, 32… 36. There was SAT: 1800, 1900, 2000… 2400. There were a lot of numbers, numbers that some would flaunt and others would be humiliated by. (I constantly told myself the reason I didn’t achieve high numbers was because I didn’t have a “standardized mind”.) These numbers did not reflect my intensive research into the African American diaspora or poverty or incarceration. These numbers didn’t reflect how passionate I was about equality. These numbers reflected my ability to wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning and take a standardized test that I knew could determine my level of success. But no pressure, right? These numbers had a very real, very gripping power over the rest of my life.

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that (most) colleges look at for admissions into their school. They alone account for at least 25% of one’s college application. These scores determine where you’ll be spending 4 years of your life- the higher the score, the more selective the school. These scores determine your scholarships. And it’s not exactly fair.

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For those who aren’t natural test-takers, taking this test that determines so much for you can be paralyzing. I found myself scoring poorly on some instances simply because I was so nervous! But of course, with practice, one’s score can improve. I am of the mind that anyone, under the right guidance, can improve their score and do well on a standardized test. But…. that guidance can cost. A lot. Many private programs in the US charge more than $3,000 for SAT preparation courses, while most private tutors are $60 per hour. This is a huge disadvantage to families with financial struggles.

So without further ado, here is a list of reasons that I believe the SAT is  U.N.F.A.I.R.!

U: Under-pivileged kids are at a disadvantage.  ‘Underprivileged’ in this sense includes both mentally (i.e ADHD or testing anxiety) and financially (i.e low income).

N: Not a measure of intelligence and what is learned in school. Although this was the original intention of the SAT, Collegeboard’s President and CEO David Coleman admitted the SAT is “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

F: Few students are determined “college-ready” based on the test. Personally, I took two classes (Psychology 1301 and English Composition) at my local community college and I got As in both of those classes, though my ACT score might categorize me as ‘unprepared’.

A: Academic intelligence is substituted for memorization. The SAT features abstruse and archaic vocabulary that no student would learn even in the highest level Literature class. Kids simply have to memorize.

I: Investment. There is a huge start-up investment for students who want to take the SAT and is not fair for parents who are  not able to afford this start up investment. College Board charges students $54 just to take the exam!

R: Reading is too highly emphasized. “The most vulnerable students — namely those who live in low-income areas or don’t speak English as a first language — are likely to suffer the most at the hands of the new SAT,” wrote tutoring manager of the Princeton Review, James Murphy. In addition, students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities deserve more leeway.

The SAT can be indicative of success, there’s no doubt about it. But it isn’t always. And for some students, the odds are stacked against them- not everyone is in a position to put in hours and hours and countless dollars into this one exam. And not everyone can do well– are those of us with dyslexia or A.D.H.D any less intelligent? For something that can determine so much for a student, there are some clear drawbacks to the SAT. And as we sit and reflect, Collegeboard rakes in the cash!

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