The SAT is not just a means to an end, and vilifying a test which is so ridden with, well, riddles, does little to profit a college-bound student. In fact, college aspirants and parents alike can take comfort in the fact that the time they invest in the SAT has not only the test as an end game but it actually prepares you for the real world in a way that school itself might not. Chief Academic Officer of the online graphing utility Desmos has demonstrated the inadequacy of the standard math curriculum in a popular ted talk.
The SAT Helps Us Deliver Informed Responses
Have you ever wondered, if Jim’s mother needs .8 oz. of blueberry for each scone, how many pounds of blueberries are needed to make 80 scones? Probably not, and far be it from me to suggest otherwise. Yet suddenly a third party is soliciting an answer from you. The SAT is infamous for giving us these sorts of questions. They seem totally bogus, but they ultimately inspire us to understand and interpret varied and complicated lessons, and in turn deliver informed and confident responses to these questions that are in fact carefully-designed proxies for the material circumstances and intellectual musings that we are sure to encounter in social and professional life.
Adults know that pensions and stock dividends don’t pay out after a three-month probationary period, and in much the same way, it’s not enough to guess just one right answer on an SAT question. The nearly four-hour, multidisciplinary test demands logical reasoning and reading competency, and well as the marshaling of evidence for crafting an argument. To solve SAT math problems, we often need to write our own equations, rather than following blueprint examples. This can be frustrating and disillusioning to many test-takers. Perhaps the problem is not with the SAT, but with conventional curriculum and its comparative irrelevance.
The SAT Helps Us Build Confidence
In addition to the variety of the questions, the answer choices provided by the SAT are generally opaque, deceiving, or even deliberately misleading. They share these traits with credit card literature, timeshare properties, and tax documents—all things that it behooves us to master. The same patient reasoning and mathematical fluency tested by the SAT is also demanded of us to meet the challenges that we inevitably and consistently face pursuant to our passions. If, for example, we are teachers, managers, or coaches, and need to divide a group of 53 students into exactly 16 subgroups of either 3 or 4, we will want to be able to model this problem for ourselves. The SAT’s substantive content mimics the reasoning that is required for us as adults to achieve our unique goals. The manner in which the SAT supplies the available answers simulates the distinct circumstances and stakes of real-world decisions. It prepares us for adulthood by encouraging us to build confidence in ourselves and in the rigor of our problem-solving process.
The SAT Helps Us Navigate & Assess
The truth to emerge from this is that life’s questions are seldom put to us on our terms, but rather on the world’s terms. To navigate this world on these ever-changing terms, we need the ability to assess things carefully, efficiently, and methodically.
The next reality is that the process is as important as the outcome. After all, the development of the scientific method is the primary and defining characteristic of what is termed nothing less than “The Enlightenment.”
The SAT demands the linguistic and mathematical vocabulary to make sense of and engage with the world, and (more abstractly) to manifest our intuition both for ourselves and others. For these reasons, we might even be forgiven for finding the SAT’s challenges something to be enjoyed.