|Back to April Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 231||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||APRIL 2005|
|SAT Unveils Essay Question|
While a writing sample produced under high-pressure test conditions has obvious advantages in showing the unassisted writing ability of a college applicant, many observers worry about the subjective nature of scoring an essay question taken by 1.4 million students. Two readers, typically high school English teachers, will read each essay and score it.
Graded in 1-2 minutes
Critics have characterized the essays as lightning-fast, formulaic exercises that are unlikely to reveal a student's true writing abilities. "There's no time for rewriting, which is the essence of good writing," complains Adam Robinson, an author of test-preparation books. (Washington Post, 1-16-05)
Sample questions from the College Board, which administers the SAT tests, indicate that the essay questions will typically start with a quote from a prominent work and ask the students to present an argument on an issue raised by the quote, such as "Do people have to be highly competitive in order to succeed?"
The College Board has some experience with grading essay questions because the now-discontinued SAT II writing test included one for a number of years. However, that test was taken by a much smaller pool of students than the SAT I.
Writing by formula
Another danger is that politically correct teachers will penalize students for expressing views they disagree with.
While penmanship is not supposed to be considered in the score, poor handwriting or spelling for that matter could well try the patience of the bleary-eyed graders devoting a minute or two to each essay. In the computer age, fewer and fewer schools emphasize acquisition of good cursive writing and spelling skills.