From College News - Has writing section, added in 2005, been a beneficial addition to the SAT or just another reason why the SAT's are unfair?
It’s the three letters that every high school junior or senior dreads to hear: SAT. There is no way to get around these tests. If you do not have to take the SAT (the results of which were released by the College Board today) then you will undoubtedly have to take the ACT. If you have any hope of going to college you better sharpen your pencils because there is no way out of it.
Having recently graduated college, I pity my younger cousins who still have to go through this grueling process: the tutors, the classes, the practice tests, it’s a never-ending process monitored by those people we like to call “parents.”
The SAT has changed somewhat from when I took it. Lucky for me, or whatever way you want to look at it, I just missed the newly added writing section that was implemented in March 2005.
This section of the SAT includes a prompt that students will need to write a response to within a time frame of 25 minutes. The essay demonstrates that they can formulate a view on a particular issue.
This essay will count for 30 percent of a student’s writing score. Students are also given 35 minutes to complete a set of multiple-choice questions that focus on ones ability to identify sentences errors, and improve sentences and paragraphs. They are given 60 minutes for the writing section.
According to College Board, the short essay students are required to write, measures their ability to organize and express ideas clearly, develop and support the main idea, and use appropriate word choice and sentence structure.
The scores are then calculated by high school and college teachers who will give the essay a score from 1 to 6. Six is the highest score a student can receive.
The new SAT claims to help colleges makes better admissions and placement decisions. However, how necessary and fair is the writing section? According to College Board, in 2009, the most diverse group of seniors had taken the SAT on record. The number of minority students taking the SAT totaled to 612,666.
For most of these students, English is not their first language; in fact 25.2 percent of test takers are not native English speakers. Hispanic students are the largest and fastest growing minority to take the SAT. Since the writing section focuses on grammar, how is it fair to judge and potentially deny someone admittance to a college if English is not their first language?
The admissions board may take into account affirmative action, in which case taking the SAT would be pointless because a student would not be judged on their ability like the test claims, but on their ethnicity.
The other sections of the exam, math, science, and reading comprehension keep students on a more even playing level field. Although, students with a higher income tend to score better on these tests, it is not to say that someone who is a minority cannot score higher. Math and science are subjects that remain universal, and it is a better representation of a student’s intellect.
To play devils advocate: With all of the texting and Facebook chatting going on, students are losing their ability to write. The other day a friend, who is a teacher’s aid at a high school, told me that when she was grading papers, she could not believe the amount of people who used “u” in their paper instead of “you.”
She was even more shocked to see that students did not write complete sentences. Students lose their ability to write because when they do write, it’s on a more casual basis; formal writing is not as stressed as it used to be. If students were required to learn how to write properly in high school, and for the SATs, then it may just help them out when they get to college and in the real world.
Debates on standardized testing have been around a long time. The tests may never be 100 percent fair, or truly illustrate a student’s ability. But no matter the argument, high school seniors around the world will still have to take them. For the first time since I graduated in this economy, I am glad to be a college graduate because I will never have to fill out those little bubbles again.
By Juliette Geller