Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mooooore Problems With The SAT

By now, this blog may appear as more of a rant towards the SAT if anything. Rest assured though, all these posts are backed by purely objective evidence taken from various studies and resources. The underlying flaws of the SAT are real and not simply fabricated by stressed out teenagers who want to take a little of their anger out on the SAT. Back to the problems, though. Many critics argue that there is not only economic bias that plagues the SAT, but also cultural bias. One famous example of cultural bias in the SAT is the "oarsman-regatta" question. On SATs of years past, the short reading passage questions we have now were once analogy questions, asking students to understand a given analogy and then apply the same analogy to another set of terms. The particular question in this case was "runner is to marathon as ____ is to ____". The correct answer was "oarsman-regatta". When statisticians analyzed the results from the test, they found that 53% of white students answered correctly, while only 22% of black students answered correctly. The question itself assumes that students are familiar with the sport of rowing and are able to link an oarsman to a regatta as a runner is to a marathon. However, back in the day when this particular test was administered, rowing was a sport affiliated with the wealthy. Culturally and economically, black students were at a disadvantage here because they simply did not have the background knowledge that the question demanded of them. The SAT has taken steps to avoid these types of questions since, but there is a fine line between what should be expected as "common knowledge" and what might only be known by certain demographics. Because socioeconomic bias is such a prevalent issue in the SAT, it is hard to argue that the SAT is not a flawed test and does not need reform.

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