“Instead of having it evaluate us, we should evaluate whether it itself is even necessary!,” said Lawrence Woodmere Academy student Brittney McFarlane who brought her fist down on the table to emphasize her point.
Others have expressed similar viewpoints, but it is Brittney’s words that really ignite the indignation present in the room. The situation had quickly escalated from general complaints to more fervent criticisms as we discussed an issue that all of us had been avoiding for quite some time. What is the name of this monstrous beast, and why is its very name shunned?
Some background is required: Entering into the new year, I, as well as most of my fellow seniors, have all but wrapped up my college applications. The stress, duress, and general misery of the process have presently made nearly all subjects relating to college taboo. This includes, but is not limited to: grades, interviews, exams, and a little something called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT.
No other test fills a high school student with such fury as the SAT. Perhaps that is why, despite the unspoken adherence to disregarding all other taboo subjects, the SAT inevitably found its way into our class discussion this week, well after the last of us seniors has taken it.
A passing remark about the SAT in the middle of a vocabulary lesson in English generated a hailstorm of opinions. Starting with comments about how much, or how little, the content of the SAT (or, likewise, the ACT) has to do with any academic teachings, the discussion quickly grew to include differing opinions on the usefulness of the test, how much weight it should have in the college admission process, and the cheating that has been observed among students under prepared or over-anxious.
With so much disapproval and an overwhelmingly antagonistic attitude evident from the class, it was surprising to see a few students maintain some of the virtues of the test. Tyrra Walker said the importance of the SAT is also helping to prepare students interested in postgraduate studies for pre-professional testing, such as the MCAT or the bar exam. “It’s a skill set that has to be developed,” she said. However, Amber Garrick countered with a question: “When I’ve graduated from medical school and completed my residency, do you really think my patients will be asking me what my MCAT score was?”
It’s true that a test score would seem rather inconsequential at such a point, but it still holds that the test is a very important factor in getting into an undergraduate program. Does this make the tests any more valid? No. But are test scores still important for admission purposes? It seems so. Perhaps the question is not whether tests such as the SAT are important but rather whether they should be important.
While seniors may now have the luxury to debate these questions, juniors can only sigh and toil on as they focus on doing their best on the upcoming spring tests. Regardless of any controversies surrounding it, the SAT is still a central part of the college decision process, listed under “Very Important” on the common data sets of the most prestigious universities. On the flip side, becoming “test-optional” is a growing trend among colleges and universities throughout the country. What the future holds for this polarizing test is uncertain — but boy, am I glad I’m done with it!