In the wake of the College Board’s big changes to the SAT, Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80 recalls a difficult experience with the exam while she was applying to Wesleyan. A mordantly funny op-ed in The New York Times details her confusion, frustration and fear during her first SAT attempt.
” I was in trouble,” she writes. “The first few analogies were pretty straightforward — along the lines of ‘leopard is to spotted as zebra is to striped’ — but now I was in the tall weeds of nuance.” Getting past the analogy questions was one thing. Boylan details what happened next:
“This was the moment I saw the terrible thing I had done, the SAT equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. I’d accidentally skipped a line on my answer sheet, early in that section of the test. Every answer I’d chosen, each of those lines of graphite-filled bubbles, was off by one. I looked at the clock. Time was running out. I could see the Wesleyan campus fading before my eyes.
“I began moving all my bubbles up one line, erasing the wrong answers. The eraser on my No. 2 pencil hadn’t been at full strength when I’d started, and now I was nearly down to the metal.
“Then there was a ripping sound.
“I picked up the answer sheet. Through the gaping hole in the middle of it, I could see the hair of the girl in front of me.”
Boylan says the problem isn’t the way the Scholastic Aptitude Test is structured – it’s the test itself. She calls for its abolition.
“The SAT is a mind-numbing, stress-inducing ritual of torture,” she writes. “The College Board can change the test all it likes, but no single exam, given on a single day, should determine anyone’s fate. The fact that we have been using this test to perform exactly this function for generations now is a national scandal.” Boylan is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of several memoirs. She is a contributing op-ed writer at The New York Times.