SAT – entrance ticket to the top universities of USA

Testing in the American educational system has been practiced for almost a hundred years

Testing, testing and testing again

The question of testing is called one of the most pet peeves in the American model of education, arguing that it is impossible to develop tests that take into account all cultural and economic factors and would be able to objectively assess not only formal "achievements" but also learning potentials in general. The essence of the educational policy, which is based on the search for a universal way of testing, was described as "good, but short-sighted aspirations using which the road to hell is paved". Note that such a sharp definition was formulated not by some cynical Americanophobe and even not by entrant-loser who said goodbye forever to the "American dream". The above statement is the main conclusion to which the professor, Honorary Dean of the Faculty of Journalism of Columbia University, the correspondent of the weekly New Yorker, Nicholas Lehmann, in his documentary study of the social reforms of the 20th century, The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy (1999), comes to.

Testing in the American educational system has been practiced for almost a century. For the last 15 years there have appeared more and more tests just as skeptical critics of such a knowledge assessment system.

Modern American schoolchildren, including first-graders, spend most of the time devoted to education in its original, traditional understanding, to prepare for all sorts of tests. Testing conceived as a tool for improving the quality of education, is gradually turning into an "obsession".

Teachers from among the opponents of "testomania", who advocate the abolition of such a system of knowledge assessment, cite the following arguments:

  • In almost all the schools, teachers are forced to give preference to the disciplines that involve test checks, while ignoring other subjects;
  • In the conditions of "total" testing, teachers are practically deprived of the opportunity to really interest the students by the subject;
  • Direct dependence of funding and final certification of secondary schools on the results of testing leads to all kinds of manipulation (for example, the students who have not passed the test are not included in the program statements, so as not to "spoil" the overall indicators).

In fact, training in the American school is a "testing ground" for training schoolchildren to successfully pass tests, and no matter how much the direct participants of the educational process (teachers and various educational organizations) criticize the system, no one is in a hurry to hear and, most importantly, listen to them.

But tests carried out within the 12-year education (the so-called K-12 system) are not the only source of trouble for students and their parents. The strongest emotional tension creates the main obstacle on the way to higher education - a standardized federal test for checking intellectual abilities of high school graduates - SAT (ScholasticAptitudeTest - "academic assessment test").

One of the students, who recently moved with his parents to another, more prestigious district of New York, described in detail the consequences of psychological burden that American schoolchildren who are preparing to pass SAT have to endure. Here is what Michael Spand says about his peers, future students of Harvard, Princeton and Yale: "Physical exhaustion was immediately striking, which unequivocally pointed to health problems. In their behavior there was some kind of exclusive obedience and something from the robots. As for creativity, it was clearly in the red. "

In truth that there has been a lot of those dissatisfied with SAT exam since its inception and "launch" in educational institutions.

A bit of flashback

Until the mid 40-ies of XX century in the USA there was no single nationwide test for admission to universities. The bipolarity of the American system of higher education corresponded to the social and political life in the states, with its contrasts and social stratification:

• top - elite private colleges of the East Coast;

• bottom - a large "community" of low-budget public colleges

By 1934, at Harvard University, the atmosphere of the "gentleman's club" finally developed, which was very disliked by the then Harvard president, James Conte. At the same time, a decision was made on scholarships for talented and successful students from the Midwest. To select the "most-most" James Conant decided to use "Scholastic Aptitude Test" ("SAT"), which was based on the methodology of IQ.

Initially, the test was developed by psychologist Carl Brygham in 1901. At the same time, the University Council (Colege Board) was established, an organization that unites over 5,000 educational institutions of various categories: from schools to universities. The main activity of the College Board is administration of standardized tests for educational programs. The University Council is developing and researching SAT test.

The introduction of SAT into the Harvard education system is Coent's naive attempt to form the American "natural elite". The professor believed that he would be able to raise "new Platos", which will lead the American Republic.

Soon Harvard experience began to be actively used by other universities - so SAT became a main "tool" for assessing students at the entrance examinations to the best universities in the United States.

College or University? – SAT Test!

American schoolchildren, wishing to continue their education in a college or university, are preparing for passing a federal academic assessment test, basing on the results of which enrolling in the US universities is carried out (average score for basic school subjects is also taken into account). As a rule, SAT test takes place in the 11th grade, less often - at the beginning of the 12th.

Approximately 5-6 months before graduation, students receive a written response on enrollment or non-enrollment in an institution of higher learning. As a rule, an applicant sends applications to several educational institutions, and therefore several letters with results of SAT testing come at once. A graduate has the right to choose from several universities.
The structure of SAT testing is not something new for an American entrant. We know that already from the first grade in the US schools students take a lot of written tests. Oral examinations are almost not practiced. In fact, the first "real" oral test is given by an American to an employer at the interview.

The fact how important is the role of SAT in the life of Americans is evidenced by the "hysteria" swelling around it: special disciplines are introduced into the curricula of the best schools, aimed at SAT passing; the whole industry specializing in SAT training is intensively developing (annual income is 2 billion dollars), and parents, in turn, are ready to shell out to prepare a native child for one of the most serious for the American tests.

The applicants from other countries are not the exception. If you have firmly decided at all costs to "conquer" one of the prestigious American universities - you can not bypass SAT-tests.

Despite all indignation on the part of the American public, and an American, as you know, does not feed bread, just criticizes and expresses a protest, the situation can not be moved from the dead point, and SAT has been happily living and flourishing for more than a hundred years. Continuous vigorous activities of the College Board periodically makes changes, but they are not so significant, and the general principles and structure of the test almost do not change.

SAT structure

SAT test is used in two forms:

determination of the general intellectual level and potentials (skills of logical and mathematical thinking, as well as lexical stock and ability to apply it)  -  SAT1;

Thematic test – SAT2.

A test is not mandatory, testing SAT2 is included in the list of requirements for an applicant only in some universities and colleges in the United States. If the system of university requirements supposes passing this test, it is passed separately from SAT1, with a large time interval.

A prerequisite is writing of an essay, the purpose of which is to assess the degree of proficiency in the language and the ability to use words and individual phrases in a single stream of written speech. An entrant should describe one of the most memorable events in his life. In addition, an entrant must correctly imagine himself, set out the vision of the world and himself in it, and talk about his plans for the future.

The essay conceived as an analytical life-history, rarely meets the requirements. More often applicants only superficially describe some insignificant case that does not give any idea of the personality of the author himself/herself, his/her values and ideals. Therefore, when deciding on admission to a university, the scores received for this task do not play a decisive role. First of all, the examination committee pays attention to the results of SAT test, which is considered by many colleges and universities of the United States as the only criterion for assessing an applicant.

Moreover, SAT1 and SAT2 is passed in a written question-answer form -  multiple-choice questions.

Duration of SAT1 is 3 hours + 1 hour for assay. The last test of 2016 included the following:

2 linguistic sections (text analysis + written language);

2 mathematical sections (without a calculator and with a calculator);

Writing assay.

The number of questions is distributed in the following way:

  • 52 – text analysis;
  • 44 -  written language;
  • 20 – mathematics without a calculator;
  • 38 – mathematics with a calculator.

Among applicants from the CIS countries, the most problems arise when solving a mathematical section:

1. Often an entrant who speaks English, almost like a native, does not "catch" the essence of the matter because of the lack of knowledge of special English mathematical terminology.

2. Many of the topics involved in the test are not included in our training programs. For example, such branches of mathematics as probability theory, combinatorics, statistics and data analysis.

The subject area of SAT2 covers such disciplines as literature, world history and history of the United States, two levels of mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even Latin. Usually, a student chooses between these subjects, however, individual higher education institutions, first of all, universities of the top 50, require passing certain disciplines.

When applying for passing a particular subject - be sure that this exam is necessary for a chosen profile!

 Additional data

  • for passing SAT test your age is of no importance;
  • examinations are carried out seven times per year;
  • number of attempts is unrestricted;
  • testing SAT-centers are located in the majority of the countries of the world.

There is a lot of information about SAT in the world network, but mostly, it's just unsubstantiated rumors of "a friend of my friend told me" character. There is no need to believe "tales" and pay attention to the petulancies of tests on the part of those who are "against" or seriously listen to all sorts of "horror stories". Nobody says that it will be easy - of course, you will have to sweat. “You cannot pull a fish out of a pond...” everyone knows the ending of this notorious proverb.

Serious training and well thought-out strategy will provide you with a high score. And success in the exam, in turn, will reward you with the keys from the doors of prestigious American universities, opening a direct road to the world of "the great and the good" and presenting unlimited opportunities.