The SAT tests “basic” concepts and knowledge that are supposed to have been learned in the K-12 education system. Sadly, there are too many outside influencing factors that can affect just how much of this “basic” knowledge students have learned. This grants an advantage to students with teachers, parents, and tutors who go out of their way to provide SAT preparation, and a disadvantage to students who have gotten the short end of the stick on the education front. Luckily, most colleges today do not rely heavily on SAT scores to determine what students they accept, but when the only difference between two applications is the SAT scores, the decision becomes unfair if the SAT is the deciding factor.
Some public schools offer SAT prep for juniors and seniors, but most don’t. Many parents pay for their children to take SAT courses outside of school, or they buy SAT preparation books, DVD’s, and practice tests. These parents can afford the courses, allowing their children to learn all the little helpful tips and tricks that can help raise their SAT score (strategies for tackling the different types of reading questions, information on how the essay portion is graded, and lots of useful information regarding the type of content that will be on the test). Every student planning to take the SAT could benefit from these courses and materials, but unfortunately, only the students whose parents have enough money have this advantage. In a case where SAT scores are the only difference between two students, it is unfair if one student with a better economic background has a leg up over another student because of SAT preperation.
Many students also have the benefit of being in a high-performing school with excellent teachers who integrate SAT prep into their classes. This gives students at these schools enough background to do well on the test. Other students are not so lucky. They may grow up in a school system that “good teachers” are not attracted to, meaning that their quality of education is lower than that of students living in places with more prosperity. Students in inner-city schools or areas with a poor economy, then, are at a disadvantage when their SAT score is compared to those of students from better schools.
Even with the supposed improvements to eliminate cultural bias from the SAT, students applying from places like the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Guam still experience problems performing well, showing that there is still some issue when it comes to finding a fair way to measure every student in an unbiased manner. And even if this problem is solved, there is still the issue that the SAT is only a snapshot of a student’s performance on one day; it doesn’t reflect a student’s progress or efforts, and doesn’t show how much effort they put into attaining the score that they did.
Because of these issues, perfectly intelligent, capable students may miss out on college opportunities when lined up next to students who simply had more resources. If anything, consideration should be given to commending them for performing as well as someone who scored higher than them on the SAT given their circumstances. The SAT is simply not an accurate representation of a students’ intelligence; it is a snapshot of how a student performed on one day, which can’t be used to judge how a student will perform in a college program.