The SAT: An Expensive Way to Spend Your Morning

by Sneha Ramshanker

Last Saturday at 7:30 AM, a large group of students were waiting in line at ASW, with No.2 pencils and calculators in hand, ready to take the SAT, a standardised test used in many US college admission processes.

According to Petersons, a company that produces SAT test prep materials, around 78% of Universities worldwide require the SAT for admissions. Furthermore, a research study at the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that larger institutions tend to consider these test scores more intensely. Universities claim that this test is used to determine how ready a student is for college, but is there more to it than meets the eye?

Based on data from the College Board, the non-profit organisation that administers this exam, about 1.4 million students take this test annually and this number is predicted to rise in the years to come. The interesting thing is that each student has to pay a minimum of $45 dollars to take the test, and for international students, this number can rise up to $98. This means that, on average, the SAT generates around $100 million dollars in revenue each year. And this does not even take into the account the millions of dollars of profits generated by third-party businesses, such as SAT prep academies, SAT booksellers etc.

So is the SAT really an accurate way of predicting a student’s success rate in university or just a money making scheme?

Dominik Barlow (11) and Tina Nguyen (12) seemed to have a relatively positive outlook towards the SAT. Dominik stated that “this test gives an indication of how well a student’s mind works academically” and Tina agreed that the “SAT has value because it tests your knowledge in a time frame that forces you to think on your feet”.

Meanwhile, Diana Stoyanova (11) said: “I understand that colleges need some kind of standardized test scores in order to see our academic achievement. However, the fact we have to pay for materials, for the test, to get our scores back and then we have to pay to show ‘our extra interests’ through subject tests makes me wonder if there’s a way to achieve this without costing the students so much money. Especially, if you consider how expensive US colleges are as it is.”

So Yee Park (11)  had a very strong view about the SAT, stating “It’s useless. It just gives students a lot of stress.”

Amy Oh (11) also seemed a bit skeptical, claiming that “It is true that these tests are quite expensive – imagine having to take the SAT I twice, maybe three times, and then 3 SAT II subjects tests. That’s several hundreds of dollars. Now that is suspiciously profitable for a non-profit organisation. It’s hard to believe that SAT is purely for educational purposes when such a high cost has to be paid. So yes, it is a money making scheme.”

It is quite clear that, though it may have some merits, there does appear to be some financial motives behind this widely used entrance exam. However, until things change, students around the world still have to spend hundreds of hours reading passages and solving math problem in order to master the SAT and get into their dream universities.

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