T Nation

SATs

I hate that word. While my hate is somewhat grounded in my moderate affection for grammar, would the grammar police mind weighing in on it?

Here is how it was used in an article on Kobe Bryant:

“He also speaks fluent Italian, scored 1080 on his SATs and is blessed with a camera friendly smile.”

Is that really an accurate use of SATs? That’s like saying, “he scored well on his Scholastic Aptitude Tests”. While you can take the test repeatedly, there is only one brand of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and that is the one made by the Collge Board or whoever.

And by the way, 1080? Woo-hoo! That was my score from the 7th grade.

Technically, the SATs are a type of IQ test. In general, psychologists will say that a good IQ test will generate the same results time and time again (within a certain acceptable margin of error), and cannot be studied for. As we all know, the SATs can be studied for, and so can standard IQ tests. What do the SATs provide us with, then?

Generally, I’d say they can tell an admissions board either a)how naturally bright, or b) how willing to work a student is. That is, you oftentimes see students with low GPAs and high SAT scores. This frequently shows that the student was either bored with his work (yet intelligent), or alternatively, you could see him as being (yet another) kid who won’t work to his potential in your particular academic environment. Or, you may see that a kid has a high GPA and low SAT scores, and you might start to wonder how challenging his school-system was, or if he instead worked through a learning disability, etc. So the SATs give us ways of measuring the student outside of a partial, untimed academic environment. They are not perfect, of course, but we do need some standard to measure by.

As an additional note, they are revamping the SATs to include essay portions. I can’t see this as other than a good thing.

And no, 1080 is nothing. But being fluent in Italian is pretty cool.

Kobe, ti piacciono i tifosi, oppure pensi che siano una parte un po’ schifo dello sport?

1080? That’s it? I thought he scored higher than that.

Yeah, no shit, like 1080 is a good score.

My original question was mainly about the grammatical use of “SATs”, and not about the merits of the test itself, so everyone mark off a point from your reading comprehension score. :slight_smile: Just kidding, of course.

nephorm definitely got it right, though. And what he said can be applied to each part of the test as well (math & verbal). I definitely fall into the high SAT score/slack ass department. One quote relayed to me from a discussion about my financial aid possibilities at a certain university: “How can he get a 1600 on the SAT and get a C+ in 11th grade English?” The real answer: I’m a lazy bastard that hated American Lit.

As far as the essay portion goes, I imagine it will be a lot like the GRE, in that you’ll get a score on a scale of 1-6 or something. A lot of grad programs don’t really look at the essay too much, and I doubt colleges & universities will use it more than just to say, “Okay, this student can communicate via the written word.” I hope it gets used well, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The essay portion of the SAT might be a good way to avoid essays as parts of acceptance and scholarship applications. I never liked that, because you’re completely going on a kid’s honesty that it’s his/her work.

Jared –

To answer your actual question, I think people have developed the shorthand of asking about the plural “SATs” because of the separate scores one receives for the math and verbal sections. Rather than saying “My combined math and verbal score on the SAT,” it has simply been shortened to “SATs,” with the two parts of the plural sort of incorrectly referred two as different tests (though both Scholastic Aptitude Tests).

One frequently hears the same thing with the graduate level exams that give multiple section scores – for instance, you will hear someone speak about how he or she did on his MCATs or GREs, even though the person only took one exam. On the other hand, you will never hear anyone talk about his or her plural “LSATs” or “GMATs,” because each of those exams gives only a single overall score.

Now, to take a moment to respond to the op-eds of those who don’t appreciate standardized tests, I want to remind people why such tests were instituted in the first instance. The exams were initiated in order to open higher education to poor kids from public schools; they were intended as a measure of academic potential that could be viewed against the subjective GPA and would not be influenced by the way the admissions officers viewed the quality of the particular school the applicant attended.

The funny thing is that SATs, which are a form of IQ test as Nephorm stated, are actually quite good at predicting purely academic success. If you look through the rolls of your National Merit Scholars or high SAT scorers (or even just kids with high IQ scores from elementary school), you will find a very large correlation of those high scores to academic success.

Does a high score guarantee success? Of course not. As has been pointed out, there are a whole slew of other factors that contribute, including the tendency to work hard (somewhat captured by GPA) and the difficulty level of material already mastered (captured by the “reputation” of the school attended and, somewhat, by studying the transcripts of the individual).

That said, I think it is a huge mistake to make the SAT more subjective by adding the essay. The admissions process is already supposed to capture that subjective side through the GPA, the transcript, and, of course, from teh essays written for the application itself. The SAT is merely supposed to be an objective measure of academic POTENTIAL (note: NOT guaranteed success), which it does somewhat well, and did much better before they started dumbing it down by allowing calculators, removing the antonym section, removing the analogies, and now, adding an essay.

(BTW, as a side note, most IQ psychologists believe that the analogies are the part of an IQ test most directly correlated to the mythical “g” or, general intelligence quotient." Those of you who want admission to graduate school will note that the GRE has not changed with the political winds as has the SAT, and has retained the form of the old SAT exam before the dumbing-down process, plus an extra section on logic (making it even more like an IQ test)).

In other words, the bottom line is that by making the SAT more subjective, they are removing the only objective measure that is available in the admissions process. That, to me, is a bad thing.

BostonBarrister - Thanks again. Hopefully I can stomach hearing that from now on.

Boston - I think the logic part of the GRE that you’re referring to has been removed. I believe it’s the Analytical section you speak of which has been replaced by two essays. But I agree, the verbal part of the GRE is “harder” than that of the SAT, mainly because of the antonyms.

The math parts of both tests are nearly interchangeable as far as material and difficult, though.

I think I must fall under the category of “lots of potential, but not living up to it.” I scored a 30 on the ACT without cracking a book to study for it (frankly I didn’t even know people studied for those things when I was in High School). I got a 3.65 GPA in college, but my major was Exercise Science. I then took the MCAT and scored 4 points (on a scale of 3-42) higher than the average score of incoming freshman at my medical school. I do pretty well on the standardized exams at the end of each course, but lets say my GPA was a little bit less than stellar.

It still boggles me though how someone can have a perfect 4.0 GPA and do poorly on a standardized exam. I really doubt they learned the information in the first place, just did enough memorization to do well on an exam (class exam) that they knew exactly what was going to be on it, and then forgot the information after regurgitating it. I think “test anxiety” is a copout.

Hah… I know most of the people here are pretty smart, but I didn’t know so many fell into the naturally bright, but lazy category. I’m still stickin to my excuse that school wasn’t challenging, too easy so I kinda stopped going. Sadly I missed about 40% of the school year, going to the beach and generally wasting time. (Yeah I was stupid) But I still carried good enough grades to graduate. What’s that say about the dumbing down of our school system? The only classes I looked forward to were my science, and math classes, since I felt like I was learning something. However after we’d cover a new chapter, I’d start missing school because I’d have to wait for the slow kids to learn it and do tons of classword and homework, which to me was pointless. Yeah I don’t really blame anyone but myself, but I wish for “the sake of the children!” they’d make it a lil more challenging, and if someone can’t pass don’t worry about their ego just send 'em through again. Making the smarter ones suffer is a waste of time.

To actually respond to your question:

I think people have viewed the SAT (ha ha) as “two tests in one,” i.e. the verbal is one test and the math is the other. However, this usage is inconsistent because several other admissions tests also have separate parts, but I have never heard people refer to the GMATs, LSATs, MCATs, etc. Maybe that’s because scores on these tests are always viewed as a whole, while some colleges will place more emphasis on the math portion of the SAT. For example, many engineering programs specify that the minimum math score they will accept is 700, but they could care less about the verbal, or require only an average score of say 500.

This is purely speculation on my part. I tend to agree with your position - I have, and always will, refer to the SAT as the SAT.

BTW - I’m also in the naturally bright but lazy category. I really wanted to go to medical school. I “settled” for law school and to this day regret that decision.

Jared –

Well, I used to teach for The Princeton Review, but it’s been a couple years now since I’ve had the pleasure of teaching any classes, so my memory might be failing me or my info may be dated. However, as I recall, the GRE had three distinct sections: math, verbal and logic (or perhaps the last was referred to as “analytical”). The math and verbal were like the old SAT, before it was changed: in other words, no calculators allowed for the math, and the verbal consisted of 4 sections (antonyms, analogies, sentence completions and reading comprehension. The other section consisted of analytical games and written logical problems.

Since I took the SAT (1991), the test has been re-centered (the mean has been moved to allow average scores to increase), calculators have been allowed on the math, the antonyms have been eliminated, and the analogies are to be dropped in favor of the essays. That’s how I understand it at any rate.

I have a guy in my med school class that was a law school dropout. He is an interesting guy, unlike a lot of my classmates.

GRE has verbal, quantitative (math) and analytical essays (as of 10/1/02). I took the GRE in September of last year so I could avoid the essays. Here’s a breakdown of my scores, just to show you how ridiculously hard the verbal part is:

Verbal: 460
Analytical (non-essay): 700
Quantitative: 720

Is that just fucked up or what?

I was the same way on the SAT’s:
Math: 660
Verbal: 520

I definitely fall into that smart, but lazy as hell category also. I graduated cum laude with a degree in Biology, but I didn’t feel challenged the last 2 years of undergraduate. I graduated high school with a 3.8, but never took a book home.

Man, it’s nice to be us :slight_smile:

JWright: Maybe if you’d taken a book home, your verbal test scores would’ve improved… :wink:

Personally, I also used to tutor SAT and I don’t think that the verbal section is much of an IQ test at all. it’s basically a test of how much you’ve read in the past. When I taught, the one thing that was guaranteed to put an additional few points on your verbal score was picking up a book in a field that you didn’t know anything about and reading it cover to cover.

I personally read a lot as a kid and so my verbal score was a little higher than my math. (Both were, of course, stratospheric… :wink: ) But I do agree that the math portion is something of an IQ test. It doesn’t matter how much “correct” math you know, the test doesn’t give you enough time to work things out in a tradtional manner. You have to be able to see a “trick” that makes the problem easier to solve. Some people have this knack, and some don’t seem to. When I taught, there were a lot of Asian kids who were fabulous at math, but they didn’t get as good a score as others who took a more flexible approach to the problems.

Oh, and yes, “SATs” is an abomination in the sight of any literate person. :wink:

char, I have to disagree, in part, about the Verbal portion. I didn’t read a damn thing growing up and I ended up with an 800 on the Verbal section. (See previous post about getting a C+ in American Lit - I didn’t finish a book that year. Moby Dick, Grapes of Wrath - it was horrible.)

Your verbal score is related to your vocabulary, how well you can relate meanings of words, and how well you can read. Vocabulary is a function of exposure to words and the retention of them. Retention is composed of other variables, a primary one being understanding.

This is why I think the SAT could be seen as somewhat socially and economically biased in that kids raised in households where neither parent has a degree and kids raised by two PhD’s will probably be exposed to different vocabularies.

I did well on the verbal portion because I recognized words easily, and more specifically, could remember how I’d seen/heard them used before. Giving you a rote definition would be difficult, as that’s not how I had my vocabulary built. I also am not one to throw around “big” words either, though I can typically recognize most “big” words.

Boston - yeah, like was mentioned earlier, the changes for the GRE went into effect this past October. I started teaching the GRE & SAT for Kaplan right after that.

The recentering of the SAT also provides for you to miss a couple of questions and still get a 1600. I’ve got friends who can attest to that.