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July 9 2018

Why the SAT Essay Requirement Is Egalitarian

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

It is true that 25 minutes is not much time to write an essay, but one can discern a few things about a student’s command of grammar, vocabulary and logic from three paragraphs. True, grading a writing test is more subjective than scoring a multiple-choice test. But writing is a real skill, and colleges should measure it.

--Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal

 

There is a move afoot to ditch the SAT essay contest.

That would be a mistake, says Naomi Schaeffer Riley, an IWF senior fellow and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who argues that without the essay the admissions process becomes more subjective and easier to rig.

Princeton recently dumped the essay requirement, arguing that the cost was a factor. It costs and additional  $14 to take the essay section, and poor kids can get a waiver.

Parents complained because it raises the cost of a tutor to prepare for the tests. (An aside: Did you have a tutor to prepare for the SATs? I didn't. My tutor was high school. Worked fine.)

The test is not perfect, and kids probably do find it a nerve wracking ordeal.

But in an odd way, the SAT essay test is egalitarian and can show adept readers a lot about students.

Without the essay requirement, colleges won't have as much information about the prospective student's abilities when unaided by adults:

How will schools discern a student’s writing ability now? Primarily through application essays or papers graded by high school teachers. In other words, the applicants who get help from adults at home and at school will have the advantage. Parents, teachers or counselors can suggest themes that will appeal to admissions officers (hardship, discrimination, fighting for social justice), advise on writing structure and vocabulary, and proofread final submissions.

This kind of coddling continues in college, where students are encouraged to make use of campus writing tutors and then expect professors to let them submit multiple drafts and get feedback before incurring a real grade. Result: According to a 2016 survey released by PayScale, 44% of managers think “writing proficiency is the hard skill lacking the most among recent college graduates.”

If colleges really wanted to reduce applicants’ stress and stop wasting time and money, they might ask students to submit the SAT writing section instead of an application essay. Forget about the College Board; send the essay to the school’s freshman composition teachers for grading. That would put everyone on more equal footing and tell colleges something useful about their applicants.

In other words, the essay requirement is egalitarian.

Great piece by Naomi--especially if you have kids nearing college application age.

 

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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