The SATs: Explained
If you're somebody who has ever considered going to university in the USA, you're bound to have come across the most popular standardised tests known across the world: the SATS. By the time a student is in class 11, this test becomes a big part of life for a lot of students aspiring to study abroad. Since many high schools calculate grades and GPA differently, the SAT can provide a standardised data point for colleges to compare one student to another.
The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) serves as a tool for universities to make students from all across the world comparable. It is meant to assess basic high school level skills with 4 sections: reading, writing, and math (calculator and non-calculator). The entire test comes in the form of multiple-choice questions, and is rather abruptly timed, unlike the other exams we sit for which usually give us more than enough time to finish all questions. Therefore, test takers have to be highly skilled at time-management in order to secure a good score. Answers to the questions are also highly objective, so the possibility of answers that are grey or open to discussion are eliminated.
The SAT really is a measurement of skill more than anything else. Unlike your usual school exams, you do not need to memorise or learn difficult concepts and know how to actively recall and apply them in questions. In fact, applying or inferring any of your pre learned knowledge in the reading passages is going to cost you; a repeated piece of advice for the SAT is to only focus on what is in the passage and nothing else. You need stellar comprehension skills and a good knowledge of English grammar to score well in the Reading and Writing section, and as for the Math section, a basic knowledge of geometry, trigonometry, probability and statistics, algebra, and functions should be enough. Most of these math skills are things that are included in your school curriculum anyway, so not much extra preparation is needed to learn new math concepts.
Scores range from 400 to 1600, as a sum of the Math section and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. What makes a good SAT score differs across countries, schools, and cultures. For the most competitive schools such as the Ivies, MIT, and Stanford, a score that is between 1460-1560 is the average. However, the worldwide average is 1050. A score of 1350 would put you in the top 10 percent of test takers and help make your application competitive at more selective schools. There is no objective good SAT score, just one that helps you get admitted to a college that you want to go to.
From March 2023, international test centres began administering the digital SAT in order to make it easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant for students. Students will be using their own personal devices instead of paper, and the test will become shorter in terms of duration and passage length.
There is a misconception surrounding students, teachers or guardians that the SAT measures your intelligence, your earning potential, or your ability as a student. Students often doubt themselves or question their intelligence when they end up getting a low test score when in reality, it does none of those things. The Princeton Review states "- all the SAT really measures is how well you take the SAT. It does not reveal how smart - or how good - a person you are." This is an important distinction to remind others and yourself when discussing the test.
Since they are not a necessity for admission in most public/private colleges in Bangladesh and, there are not a wide variety of options available for official SAT training as opposed to the standard O/A level or HSC/SSC examinations. However, many resources are available online for you to teach yourself - such as Khan Academy, CollegeBoard, etc. It is safest to start your SAT prep around 3 months before your test day.
There is an interesting, and rather racist, origin to the SAT. In 1926, Carl Brigham created the SAT as a way to screen white students for the US education system. The first test was administered to more than 8000 students, and it lasted 90 minutes - almost half the time taken for the modern-day SAT.
Following the influx of millions of immigrants into the United States, the social scientists became concerned about the "infiltration of non-whites" into the American public school system. Brigham brought a clear bias to intelligence testing: He believed people of colour were innately less intelligent than white people. Eugenicists were worried about the new wave of non-white immigrants entering the United States. Therefore, an aptitude test was put forth. At the same time, the most elite colleges in America wanted to ensure only "worthy" students would be fed into their institutions.
The Ivy League schools were quick to adopt the SATs as an essential test for their admissions, however the University of California system didn't require SAT scores until 1960.
To this day the SATs stand as the most popular form of college-entrance testing, and although a significant number of US colleges including the Ivies have gone test-optional - meaning SAT scores are no longer a requirement for your application - students with high test scores are still much more likely to get in.
Regardless, the SATs are going to be an important part of your US college admissions journey, especially if you're an international student. Even though high school grades and SAT scores are much more likely to increase your chances of getting into a selective college than anything else, it's important not to attach your self-worth or intelligence to your SAT scores - something a lot of people are guilty of doing. Remember that at the end of the day, the SATs really just measure how good you are at taking the SAT.
The Gavel Boston College (February, 2022) The Racist History Of the SAT.
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