There’s a very good documentary I saw a while back, at a screening held by the producers, called “The Test and the Art of Thinking.” You can find it at thetestdoc.org. Basically, the tutors, educators, college officials, and the like, who were interviewed for the documentary didn’t like ANYTHING about the SAT or the ACT. One person interviewed basically said “No good English teacher would ever give a reading test with questions like this, and the math is completely useless for college.”
I’m not as dead-set against the math portion. You will need to know the math on the SAT if you major in anything that requires math in college (engineering, any hard science, most social sciences- including psychology- where you have to know statistics, economics, etc.) However, I’m not fond of the “trick” math questions where they know some people will know how to do the math, but will misread the question and pick the answer choice to which a misreading would lead a good student.
The “English” or “Writing” grammar/editing tests seem a bit juvenile - anyone who’s FROM the U.S. should be able to get a very high score on that by the time they’re out of 8th grade, maybe 9th at most. It seems like a waste of time when a student’s high school English grades, essay, etc. can give basically the same assessment of the student’s abilities in this area.
The reading sections on the ACT and SAT basically suck. The SAT used to ask some thoughtful questions that required analysis, etc., but the SAT copied the ACT and started to focus mostly on details, vocabulary, and evidence in the passage rather than the larger implications of the passage. Both also ask questions where two answers have such subtle distinctions in meaning, and often are both arguably correct, but one is “better” in the eyes of the SAT and ACT people, that they’re almost impossible to answer correctly, other than by guessing between the two. I definitely agree that no good English teacher would test a student’s reading knowledge with tests like that.
Also, SAT and ACT scores don’t seem to correlate very well with college grades, future earnings, or anything else that you’d hope they would. While I’m happy I can help students do better on the SAT (See my site Tutoring by John Linneball), the fact that I can do so in a few weeks or months should tell you that the tests aren’t a real measure of academic merit or achievement.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.