Monday, March 08, 2004


The college bound will, no doubt, remember the torture of the dreaded SAT. It was a high-stress test, the only thing at stake was your entire future, at least that's what I was made to believe. I know otherwise now, but I still cringe at the thought of a test on which I did better on the math portion than on the verbal and received an overall very average score. I was a solid A student, graduated high school a fraction of a gradepoint shy of valedictorian in a class that had four. So when I ran into The Atlantic Monthly article Would Shakespeare Get Into Swarthmore? I was intrigued to learn the test has been revised to include an essay and the horrible analogies portion of the test is no more. The new test goes into effect in March of next year. Of course the essay required will be one of those stupid questions like "The more things change the more they remain the same. Please write an essay with examples either supporting or refuting this statement." I can't remember what test it was, the ACT maybe, but I got this very essay question once. I do not write well under pressure, nor do I write well when the question is a dumb as that one. I think I barely passed. I had to take a required college essay test once, a test everyone at the school had to take before graduation to "prove" you could write because passing your classes wasn't proof enough. I had to write an uninspired and barely passable essay on the importance of recycling. At the time I thought it would be highly ironic if an A- English major failed the test. All this to say how useful will the essay test actually be? This too I think is also the point the three authors of the article--all from the Princeton Review--are trying to make. The test is graded on a scale of 1-6. A score of 1 means the essay "demonstrates incompetence" while a score of 6 indicates the essay demonstrates "clear and consistent competence" even though it may have an occasional error. So how did Shakespeare do? He got a 2 out of 6. Hemingway and Gertrude Stein were also graded. Who scored well on the test with a 6 out of 6? I have just one word for you--Unibomber. Is the test useful or meaningless? I'll let you draw your own conclusions. On a side note, fans of Maurice Sendak, tune in your TVs or set your VCRs for Now with Bill Moyers on PBS Friday night. Moyers will be interviewing the man behind Where the Wild Things Are. Moyers is one of the best interviewers; I expect it will be a treat.