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A Culture of Obsession

by Mr. Quick -


Saga of the SAT: A Culture of Obsession


In 1974, Allan Nairn, future critic of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and its most widely recognized test, the SAT, was a senior in a New Jersey public high school. He was faced with teachers, parents and fellow students who treated the exam with the cutthroat intensity of battle and who viewed its results as the leading ticket to or barrier from a better life. But while Nairn's scores helped grant him a ticket rather than a barrier and he enrolled in Princeton the next year, he was severely troubled by what Nicholas B. Lemann '76, a former Crimson president, refers to in his new book, The Big Test, as the creepy "culture of obsession" surrounding the SAT. In 1999, I am sure that many of us have felt this same concern. 

Quirky and unusually personal, The Big Test begins as a history of standardized testing and the SAT, but necessarily, it becomes a history of America's philosophy of education, exposing the direct and divisive conflict between our country's sacred values of opportunity and justice for all. A complex, interconnected web of personalities, Lemann's book follows the lives and accomplishments of a series of figures ranging from the early proponents of standardized testing to a few of the first women and minorities accepted into the educational elite on the basis of their performance on the exams. 

Through these stories, Lemann brings us back to a time when the seemingly omnipresent acronyms of high school--SAT and AP, but also Kaplan and the Princeton Review--were struggling to establish themselves, explicitly demonstrating that the answers to questions of educational and testing philosophy were not obvious, and therefore need not be permanent. The past seemed just as confusing at the time as the present seems today, a fact that people often forget when studying history as a series of already completed events. 

This treatment of history, of course, requires a careful reader willing to recognize the author's point of view and take his judgments with a grain of salt. But this approach is still more useful than statements of fact, and less boring. Through personal stories, Lemann is able to address the problems arising from American values without mounting direct and unfounded attacks on the beliefs themselves. He is, therefore, able to present a subtle and complex argument, recognizing both the merits and the problems with different social constructions without sounding indecisive. 

The Big Test is an adept criticism of America's current educational philosophy--a cultural obsession with "making it," symbolized by the intensely scrutinized SAT. But the SAT is only a portion of "the big test" of Lemann's title. In his book, Lemann argues convincingly that the academic elitism of the American meritocracy, structured by its system of higher education, never lived up to its morally defensible Jeffersonian ideal of educating an intellectual few who would serve and advance the national community. Rather, the current system of selection for higher education based on the related criteria of academic performance, scholastic aptitude and IQ, has become a method of distributing society's pecuniary rewards to a select few without regard to future public service. 

While The Big Test provides a well-articulated, in depth view of the cultural history leading to today's SAT-mania and reward-based educational system, however, Lemann's conclusions are not entirely satisfactory. 

Lemann calls for more explicit discussion of what qualities should be included in "merit," and by extension, which qualities should be rewarded in an ideal meritocratic society. But in emphasizing the importance of creativity, determination and other non-academic personal qualities, he stumbles dangerously close to supporting a system in which advancement is determined primarily by subjective criteria. The danger is, of course, that the judgment of "character" could easily spawn more discrimination and favoritism than the judgment of "intelligence." 

Especially troubling is his identification of "moral worth" as a quality which should be rewarded in an ideal meritocracy. While this opinion makes intuitive sense, its implementation as a criterion for selecting outstanding individuals would be much more discriminatory than the use of intelligence tests. For all of its inadequacies, the SAT does not attempt to test opinions. Any selection based on "morals," on the other hand, would reward those who agree with those in power about what is and is not "morally good." Suddenly, anyone who is pro-choice or pro-life, a fundamentalist or an atheist, could be excluded--an unacceptable obstruction of our country's freedom of speech and of thought. 

Lemann's argument, to be fair, is not that Americans should be judged by character in college admissions, but rather that college admissions should not be the defining test in a person's life. But here, again, he runs into problems. If, as Lemann suggests, we take the extreme view that people should always be judged by performance rather than potential, we must provide everyone with precisely the same opportunity to perform. But providing everyone in the nation with exactly the same education would be a disservice both to those who would benefit from more rigorous academic training and to those who would be best served by vocational training or the opportunity to explore more creative educational alternatives. Different people reach their full potential in different environments. Not everyone would be happy taking courses at Harvard. The environments that people choose for themselves, ideally, should have equal social standing. To believe that they will any 
time soon is probably naive, but by trying to fit everyone into the same mold, we would only reduce the chances that each individual will find an appropriate educational environment. 

A less extreme statement of the principle that performance should be valued over potential is sound, but Lemann's statement that this principle is blatantly violated in today's America is not entirely convincing. Certainly, higher education is strongly linked to money and power and an impressive college credential carries weight. But Americans rarely work at the same job their entire lives these days. Our entire lives are tests, and to whatever end, the college-educated workforce is a driven population. 

To support his ideal of a "true" American meritocracy, Lemann calls for a change to content-based college admissions exams. These tests would emphasize mastery of a nationally-established curriculum instead of "learning tricks to outwit multiple-choice aptitude exams." If he feels that this system would be less likely to discriminate against students in poorly run schools and less likely to be twisted by test preparation courses available to the rich, he is truly naive. The SATs are certainly not uncoachable, as ETS once claimed, but they are less dependent upon coaching than tests about subjects in history and chemistry. 

Nicholas Lemann wants educational opportunity for everyone. He wants less emphasis on the "right" colleges and less hysteria about and dependency on standardized testing. He wants a society in which achievement need not be academic or youthful to be rewarded. In short, he wants students who are learning rather than earning grades. I absolutely agree. But in trying to reach these goals, he advocates a system at once even more divisive based on educational background and even less adept at providing young Americans with the opportunity to work hard and reach their potential later in life. In any case, The Big Test is an interesting contribution to a discussion about America's educational philosophy that probably deserves more of our active thought and attention. 


By RUTH A. MURRAY

University Requirements

by Mr. Quick -

University Requirements

Welcome to the fascinating world of university requirements! In this blog post, we will delve into the modern-day expectations that universities have for high school students. We'll explore how these requirements have evolved over time and discuss their significance in shaping students' academic journeys. So whether you're a student curious about what lies ahead or simply interested in the evolution of education, join us as we embark on this enlightening exploration of university requirements. Let's dive right in!

Univeristies Today and Yesterday

Universities today are a far cry from the institutions of the past. Back in the day, university requirements were often limited to high school transcripts and standardized test scores. But as time progressed and competition grew fiercer, universities began seeking more well-rounded applicants.

Nowadays, it's not just about having top grades or acing exams. Universities want students who can bring something unique to their campus community. They value diverse experiences and extracurricular involvement that showcase leadership, teamwork, and passion.

This shift in requirements means that students need to think beyond academics when preparing for college. Participating in clubs, sports teams, volunteering activities – these all play a crucial role in demonstrating your interests and abilities.

Additionally, research papers and essays have become staples of the application process. Admissions officers want to see evidence of critical thinking skills and strong written communication abilities. So don't underestimate the power of honing your writing skills throughout high school!

Furthermore, reading has also become an essential part of university readiness. Engaging with literature helps develop analytical thinking skills while expanding knowledge across various subjects.

In conclusion (oops!), universities today place much more emphasis on holistic development rather than solely academic achievements when considering prospective students' applications. It's important for high school students to actively engage with different activities outside the classroom while nurturing their writing skills through research papers and essays

SAT Score Increase

by Mr. Quick -

SAT Score Increase

Are you looking to boost your SAT score and increase your chances of getting into your dream college? Well, you've come to the right place! In this blog post, we'll dive into the fascinating world of SAT scoring and explore the trends in score increases. Whether you're a high school student preparing for the test or a concerned parent seeking guidance, we have valuable insights and tips that will help you on your journey. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let's uncover the secrets to achieving an impressive SAT score increase!

SAT Scoring

SAT Scoring:

When it comes to the SAT, understanding how scoring works is crucial. The test is divided into two main sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Each section has a score range of 200-800, with a total possible score of 1600. Additionally, there is an optional Essay section which is scored separately on a scale of 6-24.

Within each section, you earn points for correct answers while no points are deducted for incorrect or unanswered questions. This means that it's always worth taking educated guesses when unsure about an answer!

The scores you receive on the SAT are not just arbitrary numbers; they reflect your performance relative to other test-takers. The College Board provides percentiles alongside your scores, indicating what percentage of students scored lower than you.

It's important to note that colleges have varying expectations when it comes to SAT scores. While some universities prioritize high scores, others take a more holistic approach in their admissions process.

Understanding how the SAT scoring system works empowers you as a test-taker. By familiarizing yourself with this information and setting target goals based on college admission requirements or scholarship opportunities, you can strategically plan your preparation and increase your chances of achieving remarkable results!

Average Score

The SAT is a standardized test that many high school students take as part of their college admissions process. One key aspect of the SAT is the scoring system, which helps colleges evaluate a student's academic abilities. The average score on the SAT varies each year and can provide insight into overall trends in education.

The average score on the SAT changes annually based on various factors such as the difficulty level of the test, shifts in curriculum focus, and improvements in test preparation resources. It is important to note that there isn't a specific "good" or "bad" score on the SAT; it depends on individual goals and target colleges.

Understanding the average score can give students an idea of where they stand compared to their peers nationally. However, it's also crucial to remember that admission decisions are based on multiple factors beyond just test scores.

While aiming for an above-average score may be desirable for some students, it is essential to prioritize personal growth and improvement rather than solely focusing on numbers. Remember that hard work, dedication, and effective study habits are more valuable in achieving long-term success than any single test result.

Keep in mind that using your time wisely by working with experienced tutors or utilizing reputable study materials can be beneficial when preparing for standardized tests like the SAT. Tutors can help identify areas of weakness and provide personalized strategies for improvement tailored specifically to each student's needs.

While knowing about average scores can provide useful insights into broader educational trends, it should not define your worth or future prospects. Focus on consistently improving yourself academically through diligent studying techniques enriched by guidance from experts who understand how best to navigate these exams effectively

Adverage Score Increase

Adverage Score Increase:

So, you've taken the SAT and received your score. Now what? If you're like many students, you might be wondering how to improve your score for future tests. The good news is that it's possible to increase your SAT score with some hard work and strategic preparation.

On average, students who retake the SAT see an increase in their scores. According to recent data, the average score increase for students who took the test a second time was around 30 points on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and 20 points on the Math section. While these increases may not seem significant, they can actually make a difference when it comes to college admissions.

To achieve this kind of improvement, it's important to identify areas where you struggled on your first attempt. Did you struggle with reading comprehension or algebraic equations? Once you pinpoint these areas, you can focus your studying efforts on improving them.

One effective way to boost your scores is by working with a qualified tutor who specializes in SAT prep. A tutor can provide personalized instruction tailored to your individual needs. They can help identify weaknesses, provide strategies for tackling difficult questions, and offer valuable feedback on practice tests.

In addition to working with a tutor, there are plenty of resources available online that can assist in increasing your score. Practice tests are particularly beneficial as they familiarize you with both the content and format of the exam.

Remember: improving your SAT score takes time and effort; don't expect overnight results! Consistent practice and targeted studying will eventually pay off in higher scores - giving yourself more opportunities when it comes time for college applications.

Stay motivated throughout this process – celebrate small victories along the way! With dedication and commitment, achieving an increased SAT score is within reach!

Best Way to Increase Your Score

Best Way to Increase Your Score

Now that we understand the SAT scoring system and have looked at the average score and average score increase, let's dive into the best ways to increase your SAT score. Whether you're aiming for a higher score to gain admission into your dream university or simply want to challenge yourself academically, there are several strategies you can employ.

1. Start Early: It's never too early to start preparing for the SAT. Begin familiarizing yourself with the test format, timing, and question types as early as possible. This will give you ample time to identify areas of weakness and develop effective study plans.

2. Practice Regularly: Consistency is key when it comes to improving your SAT scores. Set aside dedicated study time each week and practice using official SAT practice tests or reputable test-prep resources. This will help you become more familiar with the content and structure of the exam.

3. Identify Weaknesses: Take advantage of diagnostic tests or timed drills to identify specific areas where you struggle most. Once you've identified these weaknesses, focus on targeted studying in those areas while maintaining a solid foundation in other subjects.

4. Seek Guidance from a Tutor: Consider working with a qualified tutor who specializes in SAT preparation. A knowledgeable tutor can provide personalized guidance tailored specifically to address your weaknesses and help improve your overall performance.

5. Utilize Online Resources: Take advantage of online resources such as interactive websites, video tutorials, and mobile apps that offer SAT prep materials free of charge or at an affordable price point. These tools can supplement your studies by providing additional practice questions and explanations.

6. Practice Time Management: The ability to manage time effectively during the exam is crucial for success on the SATs.
Practice pacing yourself by taking timed practice tests so that you feel comfortable completing each section within its designated timeframe.

7.  Stay Positive & Manage Stress : Lastly , maintain a positive mindset throughout your preparation journey. SAT preparation can be challenging, but staying optimistic and managing stress will help you