Originally created 12/16/03

SAT needed to sort college applicants



One recent Saturday morning I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair, my brain cells melting, as I began the SAT. It was too early, too long, too much and too stressful.

As one of thousands students across the nation solving the dreaded hodgepodge of problems that day, I let my mind wander and started to think about all the controversy surrounding this test.

Bubbling in "B" on the answer sheet, I thought about how critics have attacked the SAT. Not only have they accused it of being discriminatory against urban students or disadvantaged minorities who lack the funds of their more affluent peers to "buy" their score with expensive test prep but they also have labeled it ineffective at predicting a student's success in college. Many, including University of California President Richard Atkinson, have protested the prominent role it plays in college admissions.

I somewhat agree with their claims. The SAT does contain enough flaws that it should not have the clout to be a deciding factor in whether you get into college. The test has evolved from its original purpose of testing the math and verbal skills of students to testing their guessing procedure. In fact, most of the test-prep books on the market dedicate at least one chapter for recognizing "tricks" of the test, such as choosing an answer that correlates to the difficulty level of the question.

Yet even with its blemishes, the SAT still provides a national standard with which colleges can compare candidates: the main reason why 80 percent of colleges still use the SAT.

With increasing numbers of applicants each year, college admission officers need a national test. Grades and rank are often poor bench marks because of the differing curriculum in schools. Numerous studies also have found that the SAT score of most students correlates, if not to a high degree, with performance in college.

When taking into consideration essays, transcripts and recommendations, admission officers can use the SAT to make a good judgment of a student's abilities. After all, the officer's job is to find the most qualified candidate, one who will be able to endure a university's workload.

By the time the proctor called "time," I realized that though the SAT has its deficiencies, it provides one of the best chances to be fairly compared with other students. I guess you could call it a "necessary evil."

Sana Hashmi is a junior at Lakeside High School.