Writing novels with teenage characters, I have occasion to think about the SATs from time to time. I believe the importance of the SATs has become overblown, but even when I took the test mbphbf years ago, there was already a bit of hysteria attached to them.
understand the appeal of standardized tests to our number-hungry
culture, I question the significance we attach to those numbers. I only
took the SATs once, and I received a lot of pressure to take them again.
I've always been glad I didn't retake them. There would have gone some
money and a few hours of my life that I would never get back again, and
it wouldn't have changed the course of my life one bit.
then, the PSATs were scored on a scale that we were told would
approximate our SAT scores. For example, a 55 on the PSAT was supposed
to be equivalent to a 550 on the SATs. (At that time, the SATs had two
sections: verbal and math, each scored on a 200-800 scale.) I took the
PSAT twice, and as best I recall, my scores were 59 math and 64 verbal,
both times. Supposedly, then, I could expect a 590 math and 640 verbal
I took the SATs at the end of my junior year. I got a 600
math and a 640 verbal, which pleased me because the math score was
slightly better than I'd been led to expect by my PSATs. I got into my
first and second choice colleges, and got a scholarship to my first
choice. And despite this, more than one person urged me to retake the
SATs as a senior, because "you almost always score higher when you
retake it." Aside from the fact that I didn't believe I would score
higher--my PSAT scores being remarkably stable and consistent with the
SAT scores--my next question was: Well, so what if I did score higher next time? I had my college acceptance and my scholarship; what on earth would I be retaking this test for?
you get into college, SATs don't matter ever again, except when you are
writing young-adult novels and remembering that tense feeling, the
silence, the annoyance when someone coughed, the hand cramp from writing
so long, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. The test may have
changed over the years, but I'll bet that tension is the same, and the
pressure has only increased. Study for the SATs! What score did you get? Take it again! Try to raise your score! Yeah, I remember.