One of my excellent students has spoken out about the SAT and her feelings about it. I think her words are right on the money. I hope you'll read her full post (and comment.)
I am responsible for the SAT prep program and work with the Math and English department to complete a comprehensive review. Our students take a "practice" SAT (which is a real one from years past) for me each spring in their 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years. We require every 10th, 11th, and 12th grader to take the SAT at least once. (I could ramble on about this, but I won't.)
Here is what she says about the preparation we are doing:
I have taken the old SAT, the new SAT, the PSAT, and practice SATs at my school. I mean I really know how to fill in those bubbles. I am thankful that my school pushes its students to take the SAT early in his or her high school career. I stress out enough about this and I am only going to be a junior next year. I cannot imagine going to take it for the first time my senior year, knowing that where I go to college is pretty much determined by what I make on this test. I could be a stellar all A student, yet bomb the SAT, and my college dreams could go down the drain. Or I could be a C and B student, and excel so greatly on the SAT that my not so wonderful transcript is overlooked. That is the injustice of the SAT. All the determination, hard work, and ambition that is put into the grades, extracurriculars, and community service can virtually go unnoticed or, at least, looked at in a different light, because of that SAT score.
Kids who don't take the SAT until their Senior year really don't have a chance. I have found that the first time a student take the SAT should be chalked up to practice because they never reach their peak performance. (I say this after working with at least 150+ kids over the last few years. With a background in market research, I've analyzed this statistically and have NEVER found an exception!)
Sadly, I remember talking to a smart A+ student during her senior year of high school (who went to a different school.) She was getting ready to take the SAT, wanted to go to a Tier I school, and dreamed of becoming a lawyer. She had never been instructed to take the SAT before her senior year. She took it once, got discouraged, and now she cuts hair. I know she's happy and that's fine. However, I have to wonder with some guidance and encouragement, if she would not have been able to perform better on the SAT and pursue her dreams.
I was very excited this year because 100% of our senior class received the savings bond for SAT achievement from a local bank. They have to all break a certain minimum score. My goal has always been to help students do the best they can on the SAT and to stay out of remedials (none of them belong in there.) None of them were in remedials and many of them received scholarships. I was so proud!
She has some insightful words about the pressure of taking the SAT:
Maybe I am just the exception, but my score has varied 80 points in critical reading, 50 points in math, and 170 points in writing. My best score in one sitting has been on one of the practice SATs, which makes me wonder about my ability to handle the pressure that I unknowingly put on myself.Finally, she shares what works for her:
I can tell you that I have never heard of the Christmas tree method working. I still do not know how to ace the SAT, so the best advice I can give to myself and the other poor souls who have to take it is don’t stress out about it too much, prepare yourself, get a good night’s sleep, and eat a good breakfast. My personal opinion is that chewing gum helps, but maybe that’s just me. Just try to do your best.
I never share her SAT score, however, I will say that she will surely be a scholarship student to college with an SAT out of her tenth grade year that most seniors would crave.
I think that the pressure is a very real one either self-imposed or parent-imposed. A lot is riding on that test. That is unfortunate.
Kids need to take it early and at least three times to "max out" their score. That seems counter to the purpose of the test, but it is the fact.
This is what excites me. She is on summer vacation and taking time to blog. She is sharing her thoughts and self-analysis. I did not proof her work. No one proofed her work. And yet, she has submitted an article good enough for a newspaper editorial. This is excellent writing. This is what blogging is about. Wow!