right arrow
PARENTS4PARENTS is a new initiative aimed at highlighting the vast expertise of our parents community while helping other parents better navigate the college admissions process. aggies1989 is a UC alumnus and parent of two UC college kids. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
GUEST STUDENT OF THE WEEK: fintech3753 is a current student at the Wharton School. Majoring in finance, he is hoping to pursue a career at the intersection of finance and technology. ASK HIM ANYTHING!
Make sure to check out our August Checklist for HS Seniors. Consult these quick resources to get you started on the process this month.
As we work to adjust to the current reality, make sure to check out these dedicated COVID-19 resources: our directory of virtual campus tours, our directory of extended deadlines, as well as the list of schools going test optional this fall.

Anti-SAT complainers: Just shooting the messenger

Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
With the recent publicity about changes to the SAT have come the predictable raft of complaints about the role of the SAT in college admissions. Primarily the fact that the test results are more correlated to income than they are to college grades. Res ipsa locquitur; colleges should not be using the SAT as a component of the college admissions assessment.

While I agree that this fact is troubling, the people who are complaining are attacking the messenger. The K-12 education process in the US results in students in wealthier districts obtaining a better education. Everyone knows that. There are many causes, but in the end, on average, they just know more. So why ignore that problem, and then complain about the test at the end of the process that points it out?

Furthermore, the fact that SAT scores do not do a good job of predicting college grades is well understood. Appropriately, students tend to pick colleges, college majors, and courses that they believe they can succeed in. Students with low/modest scores are more likely to attend less selective colleges, and/or choose majors with lower levels of rigor. Students with Top scores are more likely to go to a highly selective college and/or major in something more rigorous such as science or engineering. The low scoring student and the high scoring student end up with a similar GPA, but it is very unlikely that a student with a 1400 SAT score could possibly succeed in the same Linear Algebra class that a student with a 2250 SAT score might be taking. The test successfully distinguished these two students level of knowledge.

I agree that revisions to make the SAT more relevant are good, but I suspect that the results will be the same. Higher income students will, on average, continue to out learn and out score low income students. The results will not change because that is what is actually happening.

We need to fix the actual problem, not shoot the messenger. Unfortunately, actually fixing the problem is hard, so we try to hide this turd under the rug by distracting everyone and complaining about the test.
19 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: Anti-SAT complainers: Just shooting the messenger

  • frugaldoctorfrugaldoctor 1153 replies2 threads Senior Member
    Not so fast. Yes, the SAT scores are closely related to family income, but you are wrong in your statement about the score and linear algebra and rigorous majors. I know that personally from my own SAT scores that were abysmal!!! My combined scores were 3 digits. I came from an immigrant single parent household. My scores were closely related to my family situation as expected. But I aced linear algebra and ALL of my engineering physics, mathematics and chemistry courses. I pursued electrical engineering as like many of my low scoring classmates. We all received our engineering degrees.

    While the SAT score is closely tied to family income, your college grades are directly tied to your preparation and effort. The SATs do not test your preparation. The SAT2s tests that.

    I seriously don't have an answer. I hated the SATs because of what my score did to my college opportunities and most importantly my confidence. Fortunately I am way passed that. But once I knew the game, I prepped my kids to now ace and benefit from that test. So, now, I have learned to love that test. They score well on the PSAT, SAT and several colleges will throw money at them.

    I hope that more emphasis be placed on the SAT2 exams instead where preparation can be assessed. Though, at the end of the day, you can't test effort. That trumps everything.
    · Reply · Share
  • strawberry3strawberry3 67 replies7 threads Junior Member
    There have been studies done at test-optional colleges that have shown that SAT scores do not predict how well a student will do in any class in college. They also found that the best predictor for college success were a student's high school grades.
    · Reply · Share
  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    Frugal Doctor:

    I agree that in addition to the SAT, SAT 2's are very informative, as are certain AP exams, such as the English, math and science AP exams. If you want to show the knowledge difference even more starkly, require 3 SAT 2's instead.

    With regard to Linear Algebra, I may have been unclear. Some of the top high school senior begin college already having completed BC Calculus and Multi-variable. I was not intending to suggest that a low scoring student could not be successful at Linear Algebra in college, but rather that if you put that student in the class in the first semester of his freshman year with the top students, they are unlikely to be successful since they could not handle the SAT math section.

    Strawberry3

    I agree that high school grades tell a lot about a students knowledge level, and ability to handle classes. However, the implication that a group of students who have an average 1500 SAT score can be put into a rigorous class with a group of students who average 2250 and do just as well, as a group, is ridiculous to anyone who has first hand experience. It may be possible in an individual case, but not on average. If the research suggests this, then it is poor research.



    · Reply · Share
  • mrnephewmrnephew 3998 replies23 threads Senior Member
    I think that making the SAT easier wouldn't help anything. Really, it would be even more difficult for colleges to distinguish between scores and applicants. Also, the wealthier schools would receive more respect as it does impact the admission process. So in turn it's actually worse for the lower class.
    · Reply · Share
  • collegehelpcollegehelp 6322 replies275 threads Senior Member
    Graduation rates are highly correlated with college average SATs.
    · Reply · Share
  • IIlIllIIlIll 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    So, for all those complaining about the SAT, I ask you a question:

    What would you have instead, to replace it?

    Grades? Nope, they vary too widely even between two teachers of the same subject at the same school, let alone across the US. Recs/essays/EC's? Far too subjective. AP's/SAT2's? Reasonable start, but not everyone takes APs/SAT2's, and not the same ones or in the same quantity.

    I seriously can't think of anything else. The fact of the matter is that SAT is roughly correlated to performance in college - also note that the correlation is somewhat offset by the fact that the very selective colleges are rigorous academically, and even some high-SAT scorers will do poorly there. And vice versa - at less-selective colleges where classes are relatively easier to pass, even the lower-range SAT scorers may do extremely well.

    So let the SAT be. Revise it how you wish, make it harder to study for, whatever you like, but the end result will inevitably be similar to the current one. There's a reason that rich kids go to private schools - because you get a better education/preparation there, and thus score higher on SATs. Otherwise, that would ruin the point of paying money for a private education. So unless you suggest doing away with private secondary institutions, then there's not much that can be done.

    Note that I am generalizing - there are exceptions to everything I've just said, just that they are in the minority. I strongly agree with the OP's stance.
    · Reply · Share
  • mrnephewmrnephew 3998 replies23 threads Senior Member
    I don't think that changing the SAT will fix anything. If anything, it will put more focus on the rigor of the school you attended and the GPA you earned, thereby rigging it even more in favor for the wealthy.
    · Reply · Share
  • mathyonemathyone 4193 replies34 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2014
    @Much2learn, you are absolutely right. The fact is that in this country, higher income kids are, on average, better educated than low income kids. Any test whose outcome didn't reflect this current reality would be suspect. In general, schools serving low income communities tend to get less funding and are forced to spend more of their resources dealing with social issues. Higher income parents usually have the luxury of selecting a residence in a "good" school system, which may not be available to low income families. Higher income families are, in this country, more likely to value the importance of education and support their kids education all the way from reading to them as toddlers to insisting they get their homework done. And their kids are usually going to be able to be more focused on schoolwork, because they aren't homeless, they aren't required to work long hours to help support their family, they aren't living in a stressful gang-infested community where they are more concerned about getting shot than getting an A.
    edited March 2014
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    It's not as simple as "richer students attend expensive schools and so earn a better education" or to quote Much2learn "they just know more". They also get to hire private tutors, take the test more times, afford better prep etc etc..this also contributes to them getting higher test scores..more so than just attending a school in a wealthy district.

    The alternative? Making the admissions process test optional. Bowdoin College is among the many that have done it and is a good example to follow.

    And no, getting a low score in the Math section doesn't correlate to anyone's mathematical ability.

    Lastly, the SAT isn't designed to test who "knows more". Take a look at the prep books, how many of them actually teach you anything, au contraire they are filled with strategies that help you choose the right answer without knowing the answer. Follow the pattern and you will score well.
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    Perhaps the SAT can distinguish between someone with 1400/1500 and someone with 2250..but i believe that someone with a 1700/1800 can do just as well as anyone with a 2250...
    · Reply · Share
  • mathyonemathyone 4193 replies34 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2014
    Look, the higher income kids also score better on all kinds of tests for which no one is hiring a private tutor, no one is taking the test multiple times (unless they failed and it's required to pass). And guess what, they do better on those as well. My daughter has 10 standardized test scores on her high school record which have nothing to do with the college board, the SAT, the ACT either. Information about how students do on those tests is widely available and it also correlates with income. Kids from wealthy school districts do significantly better. No one cares enough about these tests to do the kind of prep that might potentially happen for the SATs but the gap is still quite evident. Since NCLB, testing records on reading and math skills date all the way back to elementary school for today's seniors, and you can see the gaps between wealthy and low income students even at 3rd grade. It's about family and community and quality of students' education. It's not about SAT prep classes or private SAT tutors.
    edited March 2014
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    At the end of the day the more important question is, if the SAT a good indicator of college readiness? The answer is a resounding no.

    Regardless of who does well and who doesn’t do well, it doesn’t really matter when the test itself doesn’t do its job. And this is a well-documented fact!
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    To me the very fact that it is not a good test to quantify college readiness is more worrisome than anything else. Coz at the end of the day, it’s inherent flaws affect both the rich and the poor!
    · Reply · Share
  • Much2learnMuch2learn 4610 replies168 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2014
    Early Action,

    Why do you think that it is not a good test to quantify college readiness? When I read the College Board's college readiness report, I think that, although it is oversimplified, it is providing significant information about college readiness.

    http://media.collegeboard.com/homeOrg/content/pdf/sat-report-college-career-readiness-2013.pdf

    I have a feeling that many people who oppose the test do so because it is fairly difficult. They say they oppose it because it doesn't work, but ironically, they actually oppose it because it does work.

    Schools in top districts expect a lot out of their students, and the parents are more likely to be involved. There is no doubt that, on average, these students know more than the students in weaker districts. Any test you come up with that measures reading, writing, math, science, and social studies, will show a significant difference, and the more rigorous the test is, the larger the difference will be.

    In our current educational system, the only way to make this deficit significantly smaller in the SAT test results is to dumb down the test. That will reduce the score gap by hiding it.

    edited March 2014
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    edited March 2014
    “I have a feeling that many people who oppose the test do so because it is fairly difficult. They say they oppose it because it doesn't work, but ironically, they actually oppose it because it does work.”

    There are many different types of “difficult”. For example, is writing an essay in 25 minutes difficult. Yes, it most certainly is. BUT, is it the kind of “difficult” that really separates good from bad or even remotely demonstrates a student’s writing ability. No. When the essay score is proportionate to its length that is when you know something just isn’t right!

    I’m not saying that the SAT should be dumbed down, I’m saying that it ought to be abolished! The test simply doesn’t do what it’s meant to.

    I find it very ignorant of you to say that people who score low oppose the test. It just goes on to show how uninformed you are regarding this issue.

    If, for arguments sake, I do agree that students who score low are the ones who really do oppose the test. Then you might want to ponder upon the reason as well. Good test takers will score high. At the end of the day, it is those “smart” students, who aren’t good test takers that get low scores and so are the only ones really affected by the incompetence of the test. It’s only reasonable for them to protest.

    That statement of yours could be turned around and it can be said that the good test takes, who aren’t academically gifted (have low HS GPA) are the ones who stand to gain the most out of the SAT and hide their less than stellar GPA behind it!
    edited March 2014
    · Reply · Share
  • mathyonemathyone 4193 replies34 threads Senior Member
    "When the essay score is proportionate to its length that is when you know something just isn’t right!" Possibly. I think the changes to the essay for the new SAT are probably an improvement. But, I also think that a student who is struggling with writing the essay will produce a shorter one than a student who is able to write well and fluently.
    · Reply · Share
  • EarlyAction95EarlyAction95 235 replies16 threads Junior Member
    edited March 2014
    You generalize and imply that a shorter essay will be the one of lower quality. You also go on to assume that longer essays are written well. Both assumptions are wrong.
    People with lacklustre writing skills frequently get high essay scores by following a tried and tested format of SAT essay writing. Feel free to Google it or check out a SAT prep book to find the format.
    edited March 2014
    Post edited by EarlyAction95 on
    · Reply · Share
  • IIlIllIIlIll 69 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @EarlyAction95, do note that in general, IN GENERAL, higher SAT score correlates with relative skill level and college readiness. You cannot refute that a 2200-scorer (be he/she rich) is probably, probably more prepared for a college education than a 1200-scorer (be he/she poor). Read my earlier post - what would you propose instead? It is difficult enough to judge a candidate in college admissions, and removing the requirement of the SAT altogether, although it might work for a few schools, may definitely not work for others (for instance, UCs, where they don't want letters of rec). If it was that simple then all colleges would just drop the requirement immediately.

    Now to the minute details: Students with low income get fee waivers (which, by the way, also enables them to apply to like 40+ colleges, which are basically pulled off the top 50 on USNews, at no cost - that infuriates me because I paid like $1k+ for EIGHT colleges. Also their $90-AP tests become $5 - so my 1 test is worth about 18 of theirs?), any SAT help is readily available online (I took ZERO SAT classes, only borrowed review books from my public library, and I did just fine - 2350+. Did I mention I go to a public school where the grad rate is 70%?).

    By the way, I'm not bashing against fee waivers - I'm bashing against their misuse. There's this one kid at my school who took 20 AP's because he got fee waivers. And two who did 40+ colleges, and most do 20+. So I'm speaking from experience here.
    Feel free to Google it or check out a SAT prep book to find the format.
    Exactly my point from the above paragraph. Everyone has access to the necessary stuff.

    So when some (not you, but I feel like this is going to get brought up sometime) argue that a kid from a family with lower incomes should get basically the exact same education as one without, it makes me wonder at why anyone should bother to be rich when the government can just subsidize everything for him or her.
    · Reply · Share
  • mathyonemathyone 4193 replies34 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2014
    "You generalize and imply that a shorter essay will be the one of lower quality. You also go on to assume that longer essays are written well. Both assumptions are wrong." I'm not assuming anything, merely pointing out that if you are kind of stumped by a question, or not good at expressing yourself, it's likely to take a little longer to respond, and your essay will be shorter. I didn't say that a long essay is necessarily good or a short one will be bad. But one also shouldn't assume that length has to be independent of quality. If you can immediately think of good quotes or examples for the topic, and you have much to say on a subject, you're likely to get more words out in those 25 minutes.
    edited March 2014
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity