Why I Hate the SAT

I hate the SAT.

I don’t know any parent who likes it except for one of my friends. Her daughter, who is now at Stanford, earned a perfect SAT reading score. I never heard her griping.

A couple of years ago, I was worrying about how my daughter, who is now a college sophomore, would score on the SAT. When I picked Caitlin up from the testing center, she complained that her stomach ached so much from nerves that she was practically doubled over at her desk. Not a good sign.

Now I’m fretting about my son’s SAT prospects. He’ll be taking the test in a few months.

My anger at the SAT came to a head one day when Caitlin was trying to figure out what she had done wrong on several questions in a sample SAT. It was the section of the test that requires students to determine if certain sentences are grammatically correct or if one of the options is best.

I’ve been a professional writer my entire life. I was a reporter for many years at the Los Angeles Times, I contribute to publications like BusinessWeek and USA Today and I’ve written four books, including The College Solution:  A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price. Yet when I looked at her errors, I couldn’t explain why the sentences were wrong.

All I could think about when I was examining these stupid sentences was that they were poorly written. A professional author or journalist would never write in such stilted fashion so this whole exercise seemed ridiculous. By the way, my husband, who is a graduate of an hoity toity Ivy League journalism school, also didn’t know what grammar rules these sentences violated.

Isn’t there something sick about this? If a couple of professional writers don’t know (or ever need to know) the sort of obscure grammar rules that the SAT throws at kids, how relevant are these questions? What the heck is the test measuring?

With any luck, the tide of SAT- and ACT-optional schools which I wrote about in June will continue. In the meantime, there are a couple of free test prep sites that can help your child prepare.

One wonderful test prep resource is Number2.com. What I especially like about Number2.com is that it dispatches emails to parents that contain a weekly progress report breaking down how many questions a child tackled, how many he got right and how many minutes or hours he spent on the site.

Tomorrow, I’ll provide another great site to get your child ready for the SAT.

I just wish, however, that teenagers and their nagging parents didn’t have to go through this.

Visit my website at The College Solution.

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