1600 has become one of the most desirable numbers in academic society. There is arguably no other number that carries so much weight, that sends such a heavy message among members of the educational system. The SAT test (or Scholastic Aptitude Test as it was originally called) has been the ultimate source of the glorification and mystification of this number; a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT is in many instances cause for newspaper articles and news coverage! As the dominant standardized college entrance examination in America and many other countries of the world, the test has both shaped and reflected cultural trends of thought concerning intelligence and academic capability. Still, on a more basic level, the very existence and practice of the SAT reflects and perpetuates cultural ideas that are deeply embedded in the reasons for holding the examination year after year.
[...] So while the Saturday time of the test indicates its external position as an out-of-school evaluator, its location indicates its integral incorporation into the American school system. The test is by and large meant for students of the federal school system so it is kept within schools, almost as if it is just another exam. What of the home-schooled children and those who do not attend public school or private school for one reason or another? They must enter unfamiliar public learning zones to undergo the examination. [...]
[...] How would such a test function in a society where individual success is attributed to the family or extended kinship group? It is difficult to ascertain whether the culture posits this potential for success as an innate and unchangeable trait or an improvable aptitude, but the inequality of this potential, whether real or imagined, appears year after year on the “bell-shaped” score distribution. A second inference to be made from the College Board's statement is that capability is indirectly measurable. [...]
[...] Though it is arguable whether or not the test and others like it have been the source of this popular dichotomy, what is certain is that the SAT both reflects and perpetuates its widespread use in American academic discourse. There is also a great deal of cultural information embedded in the way the test is administered year after year. Saturday mornings are the standard examination time, which allows the test to occur outside of standard school time. But why do we test on Saturday instead of Sunday? [...]
[...] According to the survey I conducted in my dorm, I found that 23 people out of 44 had received test preparation through classes or tutors. Of these thought that the help was beneficial. If about fifty percent of test takers are able to take these classes, they have a decided advantage over those who cannot afford them, hence another avenue to social stratification. These courses often provide strategies that are very specific to the test itself, like advice on random guessing and how to allot one's time on the reading comprehension section. [...]
[...] In the first place, taking the test costs around twenty-five dollars and though there are fee waivers for students who cannot afford the testing fees, most of these students don't take the test anyway because they have other priorities more pertinent to their survival or psychological well-being. Sitting for three hours on a Saturday morning to fill in bubbles on an answer sheet does not immediately bring home food, nor does it stop mom and dad from fighting. Extreme examples though these are, they show that the test, as a link to higher education, does not encourage the blurring of social strata that is could potentially achieve. [...]
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