Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

March 17, 2014

LYONS: The SAT isn't perfect, but it serves its purpose

(Continued)

No, it’s never been perfect. “You can probably think of someone who did poorly on the SAT and yet graduated summa cum laude from college,” concedes David Z. Hambrick, a psychology professor at Michigan State. “You can probably also think of someone who did spectacularly well on the SAT but who flunked out of college after a semester.”

Or who dropped out of college and founded Microsoft, for that matter.

“The SAT is largely a measure of general intelligence,” Humbrick adds. “Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time and not easily increased through training, coaching or practice.”

Intelligence as college professors measure it, that is. A person can have extremely high verbal ability without the slightest mechanical aptitude. We’ve all known math whizzes who are total space cadets. I’ve been around Rhodes Scholarship finalists who can’t tell if a dog is friendly or not.

My own SAT scores were somewhat higher than my wife’s. But I can’t tell you how many times she’s asked me, “Didn’t you see her face when you said that?”

Um, actually, no. Sorry.

I’d be a worse diplomat than Dick Cheney.

Reading the Times coverage of the latest SAT overhaul, then, I was surprised at how little the test is actually changing. For example, they’re making the essay part optional. Good. The grading of a couple of million papers couldn’t have been anything but farcical. Besides, colleges were mainly using it to figure out whose mommies wrote their entry applications.

The new SAT is intended to evaluate what College Board President David Coleman calls “evidence-based” reading, writing and mathematical reasoning.

“Students will be asked to do something we do in work and in college every day ... analyze source materials and understand the claims and supporting evidence.”

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