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Richard C. Atkinson, president of the University of California system, aroused controversy in February with his proposal to stop using the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in the admission process for all eight of the university’s undergraduate campuses within two years. He called the test "an ill-defined measure of aptitude or intelligence," saying it is unfair to many students and fails to measure how much they learned in high school, according to the Los Angeles Times. His idea will need the approval of the UC faculty’s academic council and the UC Board of Regents before it can be implemented.

Two high school students respond to his proposal:

No, keep it

By Alexandra Toumanoff, 17, University HS

Many high schoolers are celebrating the UC’s announced interest in dropping the SAT. What these students don’t realize is that dropping the SAT is not going to solve anything, it’s just going to lead to more admission confusion. The SAT provides a universal test which compares students. All students applying to college take the same aptitude exam, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to cheat on the SAT. Thus, an SAT score can be more truthful than a high grade point average, which can result from cheating, teacher favoritism or low student expectations.

A major argument against the SAT is that many smart kids are poor test takers, and do not perform well on this crucial exam. Unfairly, these kids may not get into the UC of their choice, or be admitted to college at all. There is no getting around the fact that some people are not good test takers, but what the UCs propose to do is not abolish testing altogether but replace the SAT with yet another test. What good is that going to do? That’s like saying, hey, those shoes sitting out on the porch are getting rained on. I know, I’ll take those shoes inside and put out another pair so that they can get rained on instead. Problem solved?! I don’t think so!

Another popular argument against the SAT is that it favors rich people who can afford expensive prep classes. This is a fallacy, because the College Board, the writers of the SAT, say that the best way to study for the SAT is to work real SAT problems from past tests, books of which are available on their site and in bookstores. Practicing SAT problems for years in advance, as well as reading frequently prepares students much more thoroughly than some $3,000 crash course. Working from a book, I was able to bring up my score more than 200 points. The best way to prepare is the cheap way that is available to all.

Some kids are poor test takers, but college is not supposed to be easy to get into. If you are not qualified, you should go to community college, and when your skills are up to par, transfer to a UC. Why do we want to drop the SAT? So that UC schools will be more accessible to all who feel that they deserve to go?

Dropping the SAT will only make the process of selecting students for college a little less objective and a little more erratic. Many rejected students will always feel unfairly excluded. If we drop the SAT, the only thing that will change will be that a different group of people will feel unfairly excluded. The number of spaces at the UCs isn’t changing. Dropping the SAT will not help more students get into the UC. It will allow the same number to get in, using less objective and consistent criteria. Nobody is better served by an inconsistent process.

Yes, drop it

By Hayley Roberts, 16, Marlborough School

March 31st is almost here. Why is this day so important? Because it is the testing day for the SAT I. Already my stomach is in knots. But at the same time, I am angry. Why should I feel that my future depends on a test that doesn’t even examine what I learn in school? The SAT has become such a major part of every teenager’s life that it prevents us from having fun in what is supposed to be part of the best time of our lives.

The authors of the SAT write a test that is so confusing and random, even some of the most well-educated people in this country would probably receive a low score. Although the test questions are based on basic skills that have probably already been learned in elementary school, they are worded in such a way that the test becomes a dizzying mess. What is the point of questions like "How can the expression (A0A)(10)+(B0B)/100 be written in decimal form if A and B are digits?" How does this test how well I will do in college? It doesn’t. Questions like that do not and cannot predict what my academic abilities really are.

The SAT also creates an unfair advantage for those who have more money. Specially designed programs created by companies like IvyWest, Kaplan and Princeton Review teach students how to do well on the SAT—at least, those students who can afford it. These programs are good, but they also cost thousands of dollars, making it impossible for people with less money to gain that important advantage. These programs teach techniques like how not to get confused by the questions, how to save time, and how to recognize certain types of questions. These lessons almost invariably help raise a student’s scores, which makes it all the more unfair for those students that can’t afford the program.

Some may say that the admission officers at colleges need a way to measure students’ academic potential, because of weighted grades and GPAs. I do believe that there should be a test that assesses each student’s potential, but the SAT is not that test. It is unreliable since many students who are really smart end up with bad scores, while other students who could care less end up with perfect scores. A test that has that big of a margin of error should not be given to students or used as part of the college admission process.