01.14.19 | Standardized Testing Revisited

It's the major rite of passage, perhaps second only to one's trip through the birth canal. Most of us sat for the SAT. Break the seal with your No. 2 pencil . . . . and go! The ensuing four hours could determine one's future. A few achieved the holy grail of 1600 (or equivalent) -- name in the local paper, acceptance into the scholastic pinnacle assured. For others, the results could relegate the test-taker to the backwaters of academia, maybe to life itself.

And, so, our focus article, The Truth About the SAT and ACT, may stir up a certain visceral reaction. Given the fullness of time, however, we may possibly have achieved enough distance to look at this seminal event with a degree of non-attachment. In what one may view as a perverse -- okay, pathetic -- sort of masochism, have had this temptation to face down the White Whale i.e. to again sit amongst the adrenal overdrive of youth and retake the test this time as a calm adult.

Kaplan offers a free preparatory program, including many sample questions. It was an interesting experience. The first few reading segments went quite well but, thereafter, came that old familiar sensation of a wandering mind (back then: time running out; is there a trick here; the guy next to me constantly sneezing). After deciding to totally ignore the time element and in the solitude of home, the rest of the test went well, was even enjoyable.

So the question is what, exactly, is being measured here. The crushing time element suggests there is some element of pure processing speed involved -- reflex over reflection. Or, perhaps, it is the ability to maintain extended concentration (maybe administer Adderall before actually taking the damn thing). Then there is the suggestion that it's the measurement of hard-wired intelligence itself -- there are algorithms claiming to compute one's IQ from some combination of the SAT and ACT.

We are fortunate to include in this session as our "lead participant" someone whose career included the development of many such standardized tests. You will be but one degree of separation from those responsible for coming up with those cursed' syllogisms that haunt my dreams even now.

Steve SmithComment