Abolishing the Sats – Yes

I am living proof that the SATs should not be used to determine admission to college. I was a good student in high school. I was on the honor roll and my grades were As and Bs. I took the required math courses and no more. Numbers are dull.

I loved English class and literature and humanities. I was and still am a voracious reader. I like to write. I love words. Words are never dull.

When I took the SATs, I breezed through the verbal part. I was sad when I was done. One look at the math part told me that there was very little I knew about what they were asking. So, I came up with a strategy that worked for me. I looked at the numbers in the equation. Then I looked at the numbers in the answers. The answer that looked similar to the equation in strictly a numerical sense was the answer I chose.

When the results came, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had scored a perfect 800 on the verbal part. No surprise there but I had scored 750 on the math section. Me? me the student who hated math, took nothing higher than algebra, and had no idea what the questions were. My strategy worked or I was lucky. Either way, it was not an accurate assessment of my mathematical prowess.

Because of my high score, I had scholarship offers from some very good schools. I got credit for basic math courses at the college I went to and got As for them. I felt like a thief.

Fast forward 25 years or so, now my kids begin to take the SATs. The oldest and smartest (just ask him) almost passed me. He got an 800 on the math and 720 on the verbal. The next child’s turn arrived four years later. Now, Tim was never a student. He got by. His SAT total was in the 1300s I think. It wasn’t cause for celebration but not too bad either.

The youngest, and only girl, took them a year later. She got an 800 in math and a 690 in the verbal part. My husband, when asked, says his were lower than anyone’s.

The oldest, Andrew, didn’t do very well at college. He hung in there but no test had tried to predict maturity. He sat out a few semesters until he was ready to get serious. When he net back he got all As and graduated with honors. While he was in graduate school, he taught preparation classes for the SATs and then for the GRE (which he got an almost perfect score on). The owners asked him if he had ever taken the test for business school. He said he hadn’t.

They had him take the GMAT (for business school) and he scored very high, again. He was now tutoring people to take a test about a subject that he knew very little. But, as he said, he taught them how to take the test. He even taught my math strategy in the SAT classes.

My son-in-law kept failing the law boards and said Andrew could probably pass it even though he never went to law school. He’s probably right. Some people just test well.

Tim, the lowest SAT score of the kids, also went to college for a while and then left to figure out what he wanted. When he went back, he got all As and graduated Summa Cum Laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

My daughter, whose score was slightly lower than Andrew’s, graduated in 3 years with honors. She is now COO of a World Bank spin-off.

I think my remark about Andrew taking tests says it all. Some people test well. It isn’t a true measure of what they know or how they will do in college. I think it should be used as a first indicator. Andrew went through the process of applying to the US Naval Academy. They use the SAT as the first hurdle to get over. If your SAT is below a certain number, you’re done. From there, it gets much more complicated trust me.

So, it seems to me that the value of the SATs is in getting a snapshot of an applicant. If colleges must use them then do it like the Naval Academy does. Once you’ve eliminated applicants below a certain score, you can start looking at the person from different perspectives. The score the Naval Academy used was in the middle.

Of course, all of this was before they added the essay question. All of my kids said they were glad they didn’t have that when they took them. I wish they had when I took them. Writing comes easy to me. Don’t you agree?