Sat Essay Unfair

Over the summer, we profiled Anthony Green, the SAT and ACT tutor to the 1%. Green tutors the offspring of some of the country's wealthiest folk, and all of his sessions are conducted over Skype for a whopping $1,000 an hour.

In 2016, the SAT returns to a 1600-point test, combining the current 800-point Reading and Writing sections back into the single 800-point "verbal" section that characterized the old exam.

In a recent interview, Green told Business Insider no one should take the new SAT in 2016, which he's also argued on his site.

"I'm recommending that none of my students take the first three rounds of the new SAT (March, May, and June of 2016)," Green said. "Why let students be guinea pigs for the College Board's marketing machine?"

We asked him to explain. Here's what he wrote in an email:

The College Board is hyping the new version of the test as "the people's exam" - they're trying to claim that it's a more democratic, more user-friendly version of the test that'll more accurately reflect the demands of the American high school curriculum. There's just one problem: this is exactly what they said about the last version that they launched, which has turned out to be a total catastrophe.

More students now take the ACT than the SAT, and with good reason: the ACT is and has been a reliable, predictable exam that is far more focused on actual academic merit than it is on random logical reasons tricks and esoteric vocabulary words. Now that people don't know what the new SAT grading system means (the switch to 2400 from 1600 has thrown everyone off), and because the SAT essay is largely seen as a total joke, the new exam has been regarded with suspicion, and more and more people are opting for the ACT instead.

The College Board is losing their market share, and they're making a last-ditch effort to revamp the test for the second time in ten years.

The "new SAT" is basically a poorly disguised marketing gimmick that's trying to:

A) Make the SAT much more like the ACT. If you look at the changes being made, you'll find that all of them are an attempt to make the test's format and material more similar to the ACT.

B) Get rid of the essay (it's now optional) and bring the grading scale back to the old, familiar 1600 that everyone knows and loves (or hates). In essence, they're admitting that the current version of the test was a mistake.

C) Attempt to make people forget that this test is an inherently unfair mechanism designed to gauge student income levels.

C is particularly frustrating. The rhetoric coming from the College Board is constantly focused on how "fair" this new test will be. Now, they claim, the test will finally be in line with student interests. But let us not forget that this test is based on SCALE. If everyone got a 1600, there would be no point to this test at all. This test is designed to show colleges who is better and who is worse - not who is good. It is a comparison mechanism. There are winners and losers in this game - which is the entire point of the test to begin with. The "democratic" rhetoric coming from the test makers borders on ludicrous. They're putting out a test intentionally designed to segregate students from each other based on arbitrary ability level, and now they have the nerve to pretend that they somehow have students' best interests in mind.

Why wait to take the new test (if you want to take it at all, instead of just switching to the ACT)?

1. The College Board has been relatively close to the vest about the specifics of the new exam. While I'm sure they'll release more details as the test date approaches, students should never take a test without knowing precisely what to expect. After the first three rounds of testing, we'll all have a much better idea of what awaits students, the variance of question difficulty levels, distribution of certain types of material, vocabulary spectrum, etc.

Every test is beatable. There are always strategies and tactics that allow students to gain an edge. By understanding the correct material to study, and the correct approaches to use on each problem type, and student with enough time and diligence can get a high score. No student should walk into the new version of the test blind. First, students should gain a thorough understanding of what they need to learn beforehand to master the test.

2. Once the first three rounds of the test have been released, a number of high quality practice materials will be released by the big publishers (Barron's, McGraw Hill, etc.) in addition to the College Board. The more materials students have on hand to study and prepare for the exam, the more effectively they'll be able to study.

3. Who knows what sort of mishaps and grading nightmares might occur as the new test is rolled out? Let the College Board work out its kinks, and don't voluntarily be part of this new experiment.

No one needs to take the March, May, or June versions of any exam. If you're a junior, take the ACT instead. If you're younger, just wait. In either case, avoid the first few rounds of this test like the plague. You'll avoid any mishaps, and you'll allow the proper materials and strategies to be developed.

Read more about Anthony Green here.

Brianna Letourneau was surprised when she first opened her SAT earlier this month. Letourneau, a senior at Eastside High in Gainesville, Fla. has taken the college entrance exam three times. This time, however the essay question caught her off guard.

"I was expecting something much different," Letourneau said. Among the reasons many high school students will long remember their March 12 SAT scores, which are being released today, is because of an essay question that continues to rankle: Do people benefit from reality TV? It's a topic that has sparked debate among students, educators and College Board officials. Some test-takers like Letourneau felt the prompt was insensitive to students who are not allowed to watch reality television shows such as MTV's Real World or ABC's The Bachelor. "If your mom and dad don't allow you to watch reality TV, you're stuck," she said. So what about those students who don't keep up to date with The Bachelor's love life or Snooki's latest social outing? College Board officials say they are not testing the student's knowledge of the essay subject, but rather how they compose their writing. In a statement released by the College Board, Laurence Bunin, senior vice president for operations and the general manager of the SAT Test said, "The central task of the SAT essay is to take one side of an issue and develop an argument to support that position." Using a popular culture reference is not only appropriate, but potentially even more engaging for students," said Bunin. Latourneau feels this gives students who watch reality TV an advantage. "Essay questions are usually more generic. How can you make a strong persuasive argument if you don't know anything about reality TV?" Not all of the test takers, however, felt the question was out of line. Kelly Savage, a junior at Ponte Vedra High School in Ponte Vedra, Fla. was given the same SAT question, but doesn't see why the question would be considered unfair.

SAT Essay Asks About Reality TV

"Reality stars are 'role models' and the constant scrutiny of their actions will always be a hot topic, and certainly one that the average student taking the SAT should be able to formulate an opinion on," she said. Even though Savage does not regularly watch reality TV she felt the prompt was especially relevant to students her age. "With reality programming prevalent on networks such as MTV and E!, whose target demographic is teens and young adults, it is relatively difficult for students my age to not watch reality shows here or there," she said. Like Savage, Tori Cabot is another teenager who does not typically tune into reality TV. Cabot, a junior at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, took the college-entrance exam for the first time on March 12th. "The thing that surprised me was the topic. I doubted it at first," she said.

'They Want To See If You Can Create A Well-Crafted Essay'

Cabot worked with a tutor in preparation for the SAT, but says she never came across a question like that one. Although it caught her off guard, she also feels that's the point of this type of test. "They might throw a curveball, but they want to see if you can create a well-crafted essay, no matter what the question," said Cabot. Cabot admits the question was strange, but does not feel the essay question alone will greatly affect anyone's scores. "I'm a little nervous, but not extremely concerned," she said. It's not about the point of view, but rather how the test-taker constructs the point of view, Cabot explained. "There might be some advantage for students who watch reality TV, but students who do not watch reality TV still have an opportunity to argue a point and show good writing technique," she said. Now that scores are released, the debate is bound to continue. College Board officials feel those who are up in arms may be missing the point. "If presented with a topic about balancing the risk of climbing a mountain with the reward of reaching the summit, for example, a good writer could compose a strong essay without ever having reached the summit of Mount Everest," said Bunin. "We acknowledge that not all students spend valuable hours watching reality television shows, nor are we recommending that students watch these programs."

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