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teachers' guide: secrets of the sat

      
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Enhanced video clip "What are the limitations of the SAT?" (Click to watch clip)
In cue 30:10, Fred: "My biggest worry is my SAT scores. A higher SAT score would probably help me get into Berkeley." Out cue 32:55, Camara: "...that that opportunity is not uniform across all schools and across all communities, irrespective of where one lives."

In this clip, experts debate the utility of the SAT in evaluating a student's capabilities and college potential. In addition to external factors that can affect performance on standardized tests-like family income, test preparation, and ethnic background-critics of the SAT argue that it reflects a very narrow aspect of a student's capabilities, without regard to extenuating circumstances. Wayne Camara of The College Board defends the test's utility, countering "What the crime is, is not that the SAT is used for admissions. The crime is that courses like the advanced placement program, qualified teachers, the opportunity to be engaged in more rigorous courses and be expected to perform at higher levels, that that opportunity is not uniform across all schools and across all communities, irrespective of where one lives."

Discussion questions

  1. How can admissions officers determine the difference between the test scores of an applicant who has been "coached" and an applicant who has not?
  2. Can, and should, admissions officers be expected to identify extenuating circumstances that may have contributed to low SAT scores of an otherwise qualified student? If so, how might they accomplish this?
  3. Think about JK Delane, the student we met in clip #2. What qualities/skills does he have that you think will help him to succeed in college? Might any of these be reflected in his SAT score?
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