“Of 2.25 million SATs taken every year, about 1,000 scores are withdrawn for misbehavior, 99% of which are for copying,” Tom Ewing, an Educational Testing Service spokesman, told The New York Times last September. This statistic not only reveals how prevalent cheating on standardized tests is, but also how much pressure high school students are faced with.
Now more than ever, educators need to realize this pressure and work to alleviate it. To me, the most effective (albeit drastic) solution is to eliminate the SAT altogether. This test does more harm than good; the stress and anxiety it causes does permanent psychological damage to the nation’s students. Finding a college should be a happy and exciting time in a teenager's life, not something they dread because of the SATs.
Beginning as early as freshmen year of high school, they are trained on how to take the SAT and what scores they will need to get into what college. Students are essentially given an ultimatum: Get a 2,300 and you’ll get into an Ivy League, and thus a wonderful life post-graduation; get anything less, and you’ll end up at a dead-end community college with no future. While this is a gross exaggeration, it is the stress-induced mentality of so many high school students across the U.S. Standardized testing and a student’s future have become so intertwined as getting into college has become increasingly difficult.
There are several other factors as to why the SAT has been put on a pedestal. Competitive, status-conscious parents put a premium on getting into elite academic institutions. The ongoing economic recession, which has left parents feeling like their jobs and financial future are in jeopardy, is also making them more eager than ever for their children to get score-based scholarships. Moreover, teachers, whose job evaluations increasingly depend on test results, are an added source of pressure.
These varying factors at play, coming from all sides of their lives no less, leave students feeling hopeless. If they can’t learn “how” to take a standardized test or simply aren’t academically up to par with some of their peers, what option do they have left? For them, cheating seems to be the only path left to getting a college degree and subsequently a decent job.
Speaking from personal experience, the SAT was a nightmare for me. I was in the top 5% of my grade, yet my SAT scores were...less than wonderful. I essentially had to jump through hoops to reach the score my choice of colleges deemed worthy: I had an SAT tutor for several months, I had to re-take the test, and I had to attend multiple training classes. It was expensive to say the least.
Luckily, I was financially able to get through this hellish process. However, many in a similar situation simply can’t afford it. Private tutors can cost up to $4,000 and classes up to $1,000, according to the New York Times. On top of all this, the test itself has several fees such as registration and printing. For students who can only afford the bare minimum, cheating is a viable option. Whether paying another student to take the test for them or paying for answers, cheating seems to be the less expensive option than tutoring classes.
Eliminating this stressful, and quite frankly, painful process would help students see the road to college in a different light. Rather than focusing on the immense pressures and destroyed dreams, students could actually focus on the college’s actual attributes and the opportunities of attending. A student’s academic intelligence can’t be summed up in a three-hour test; forcing them to endure such an anxiety makes what should be an exciting experience a dreadful one.
Photo Credit: Newton Free Library