Am I taking the SAT or trapped in a prison cell?

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Am I taking the SAT or trapped in a prison cell?

Students are very bored and stressed during the useless standardized testing.

Students are very bored and stressed during the useless standardized testing.

Hope Davidson

Students are very bored and stressed during the useless standardized testing.

Hope Davidson

Hope Davidson

Students are very bored and stressed during the useless standardized testing.

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A few weeks ago, I was unlucky enough to take the SAT alongside my fellow highschool seniors. Soon after, I was quickly reminded of how much I hate taking a test in a prison-like environment.

In the event of taking the SAT with essay, one must pay $64.50 so they may have the pleasure of arriving at the designated school at 7:45 on a Saturday morning, just to sit in a room and test until (approximately) 1 o’clock. To enter and leave the testing room, a student must show their I.D. and admission ticket. Test-takers are not allowed to leave the room, eat, or talk during the test. When I signed up for the test, I was unaware I was signing myself up to be sent to prison for five hours.

With a test that long, it is almost impossible to stay focused the entire time. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology states the most efficient way to study is to take a 10 minute break for every 50 minutes. While studying is not identical to testing, it shows that breaks are necessary for efficient work. During the 5 hour test period, students received less than 20 minutes to themselves where they were not being instructed or testing, evidently not enough break time to work to full capacity.

If the test is so awful, why take it? There’s a catch- if you plan on going to college, you have to take a standardized test: either the SAT or ACT, sometimes both. In California, UCs or CSUs require your test scores to apply to their schools and your chances of being accepted to these schools are largely dependent on these standardized test scores.

Economic environments are also a factor into how well a student scores on a test. Testing agencies charge a ridiculous high price to take a test, so some people can afford to take it only once. However, a student with more money has an opportunity to take the test multiple times to improve scores and purchase a tutor or test preparation courses to better their chances.

Additionally, the tests are adhered to test English speaking students, therefore, it may be more difficult for students who learned English as a second language, giving them an unfair disadvantage.

There’s another set of problems that come with standardized testing. Standardized tests unnecessarily rank students and creates competition amongst them. Students who receive a low score may be seen as “dumb” compared to the “geniuses” who score higher on the scale. Lower scoring students may feel bad about themselves and can face a more difficult time being accepted into schools as well. In comparison, students with higher scores may feel a false sense of superiority to students who didn’t perform as well as they did. Because students are already competing against one another for limited spots in universities and colleges, they are forced to compete for higher test scores for a better chance at being accepted over their classmate. The unnecessary ranking and competition adds only another layer of stress to the teenage life.

Not all students are the same, yet, they are tested exactly the same way. Albert Einstein once said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”

The SAT measures one’s abilities in math and English, and while that is a strong suit for some students, it is a weak point for others. These students have other talents but don’t get to express them in these tests, and when they get low test scores, they are viewed as dumb. Education researcher Gerald W. Bracey claims standardized tests don’t measure a vast majority of skills such as

  •  creativity, critical-thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity

Standardized tests are not only present in high school, but as early as third grade. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandated that all states issue standardized tests in math and reading in grades 3rd-12th. Children are pressured to do good on these tests in “preparation for their future”. Such stress can cause children to focus most of their time on academics instead of other activities they may enjoy, essentially stripping them of a ‘childhood’.

The education system tries to get as many people in and out of school as quickly as possible. This leads to a “teaching kids to test” mentality instead of ensuring they actually comprehend material. Standardized tests are part of this concept: give kids the same test and identify them by a number- their test scores.

Frederick J. Kelly, the creator of the standardized test in the United States, forewarned us: “these tests are too crude to be used and should be abandoned”.

Standardized testing is an outdated, ineffective method of testing the knowledge of students. Not all students thrive by sitting in a room and testing for hours on end with minimal breaks. By putting so much weight on tests such as the SAT and ACT, colleges give some students an unfair advantages they have no control over.

The system involving standardized test needs serious refinements, and fast.

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