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Experts Weigh In On Effectiveness Of SAT

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
September 15, 2009

As might be expected, experts differ regarding the effectiveness of the SAT, a standardized college admissions test taken by over a million high school students annually.

"The SAT, more than anything else, shows how well you take the SAT," said Edward Carroll, a standardized test expert and tutor at the Princeton Review who has taken the SAT for the past decade. In an interview with The Washington Post, Carroll noted that the SAT is "NOT a measure of student's raw math or verbal ability. The College Board [which owns the test] itself does not claim that the SAT predicts subject skills, but rather that it is a predictor of performance in college (along with the rest of a student's application). Personally, I think it also filters out students who can't perform quickly. The test is rigidly and tightly timed."

Carroll also called the SAT a "very flawed test" in terms of revealing student content skill or personal study and performance ability. "The SAT puts students in a pressurized environment," he explained, "and students who perform well in testing situations will excel. . . .On the SAT, if you're brilliant and slow, you'll get a very average score."

By contrast, Gaston Caperton, former governor of West Virginia and president of the College Board, writes in U.S. News & World Report that the popular test has "been proven to be a valid, fair, and reliable data tool for college admissions. All of the available research supports this point."

He noted that the vast majority of the country's colleges and universities accept the SAT as part of the admissions process because doing so allows them to make better admissions decisions, particularly in light of the spread of artificial grade inflation.

"In 1987," he writes, "27 percent of SAT takers reported high school GPAs of A plus, A, or A minus; by 2007, this figure had grown to 43 percent. That's one reason most college admissions officers tell us they rely on the SAT to be an objective measure of college readiness. It's often the only such measure at their disposal."

Carroll noted that the ACT, another college admissions test taken as an alternative to the SAT and gaining popularity, is far more indicative of a student's ability. "It tests what students learn better than the SAT," he explained. "It has its own flaws, but what it purports to do it does better than the SAT."

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