Guest Blog by Amanda Youmans, I Got the SAT Blues


Mandi

Amanda Youmans, William Hall High School ’16

Why do I believe my standardized test scores are not a valid indication of my college readiness?
     (A) I read Sian Beilock’s Choke and I lie on the spectrum between nervous test takers and those who suffer from full-blown test anxiety.
     (B) I don’t think there exists a standardized test that reflects my passion for learning or intellectual interests or abilities.
     (C) Bubble sheets are not well-suited to represent the breadth or depth of what I’ve learned in high school, in or out of the classrooms.
     (D) All of the above.

If I were as adept at reading comprehension as I am at reading situations, I’d have a different set of SAT scores to report on my Common Application. Despite assiduously studying vocabulary and sedulously taking test prep classes, inferring what the author of Passage 1 would say to the author of Passage 2 if they met in a dark alley and accurately applying the distance formula to two random points in the Cartesian plane are tasks I still find enigmatic, even arcane. I have yet to find the Quizlet panacea or algebraic algorithm or anxiety-reducing mantra I can apply to my idiosyncratic learning style to help show what I know on standardized tests.

The price of ground beans is d dollars for 8 ounces and each makes c cups of brewed coffee. In terms of c and d, what is the dollar cost of the ground coffee beans required to make 1 cup of brewed coffee?
     (A) Huh? Personally, I’ve never held d dollars in my hand or seen c cups of coffee.
     (B) Reread the question and make a chart.
     (C) Who drinks only one cup of coffee? Does it matter if it’s decaf?
     (D) Take a deep breath. Ignore that pain in my chest and the uncomfortable feeling I’ll be enrolling in community college next fall.
     (E) Given how prevalent coffee has become since caffeine, nicotine, and sugar were introduced within a single century to Western culture, I find it felicitous there’s a question about coffee on the SAT. I can easily walk to the cube root of eight squared places from this very testing center. Right, testing. So what’s d?

The truth is I love to learn and wish there were a test extant to measure my passion. Howard Gardner demonstrated more than a generation ago at the Harvard School of Education that intelligence cannot be captured in a single set of numbers; verbal/linguistic and mathematical/logical intelligence are only two among a much larger number of multiple intelligences. Interpersonal intelligence? Not measured by SAT scores. Ditto intrapersonal intelligence and aesthetic intelligence and spiritual intelligence. Humor? I’ve not seen one vestige of humor from turn-the-page-and-begin to pencils-down. Okay SAT, you do you.

My standardized test scores do not correlate with my fascination with the world and all the people in it. They do not capture my commitment to social justice or acceptance or learning from those with vastly different backgrounds and worldviews from my own. I have been looking forward to college since I first looked up psychology and sociology and anthropology, but you’d never know that from a 1500 or 1650 or 1997. Heck, you wouldn’t even know I’m actually more than competent at math or love to read slowly and thoughtfully or have studied several grammar books outside of school (William Safire’s Fumble Rules is my favorite).

I hope my application does more justice to my general academic knowledge, skills, and what I hope to accomplish as an undergraduate and contribute to whatever academic community I end up in next year than accurately choosing among (A), (B), (C), and (D).

If a train leaves the station traveling 50mph…
     (A) How does a train start out going 50mph? Is it a magic train?
     (B) I think my time is more productively spent making posters for the next Action Club meeting.

 


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