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Apodaca: New SAT? How about 'Game of Thrones' style?

May 20, 2013|By Patrice Apodaca

Many of us believe the college admissions process has spiraled out of control. Plenty among us also feel that our education system has become too test-centric.

And at the intersection of the two lies the SAT, the most dreaded, derided and feared test in the world.

How loathed is the SAT? I googled the term "hate the SAT" and found chatrooms where anxious students unloaded their grievances against the college admissions test. It "ruins lives" was a typical comment. One YouTube video showed a student beating up his SAT study guide.

I read discourses by furious parents who resent their children's college prospects being held hostage to a single test that is meant to measure — well, we don't really know what the purpose of the test is any more, other than keeping the College Board and test-prep industry alive. Oh, and it also gives colleges an easy way to destroy kids' dreams.

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The SAT's problems persist despite the fact that it's been rethought, reinvented and re-rationalized many times over. And even though the rival ACT is now widely accepted, the SAT remains perversely powerful, particularly here in California, where it's the bane of most high school students' existence.

The origins of the SAT date back to the turn of the 20th century, when William McKinley was president, women wore corsets, and few Americans finished high school, much less went to college. The College Entrance Examination Board, with 12 university members, was established to administer admissions tests.

A few years later, French psychologist Alfred Binet created the first IQ test; the idea gained traction during World War I when Harvard professor Robert Yerkes tested nearly two 2 Army recruits. His colleague, Carl Brigham, was asked by the College Board to develop a standardized admissions test, which would later become the SAT.

By the 1940s, the Educational Testing Service was formed to administer the SAT (the College Board owns the test), but the big break came in 1960 when the huge University of California system began requiring it for admission.

Controversy has dogged the SAT throughout its history; most notable have been charges of racism and elitism. The test was reworked most recently in 2005 when the essay portion was added, prompting new criticism that evaluations would be far too subjective. Through all its iterations, one particularly disliked feature — the quarter-point deduction for wrong answers — persists.

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