LETTER | An empty acronym for an empty test: a scrutiny of the SATs


By Davina J. (’25)

I’ll be taking the SAT in exactly two weeks, two days and 12 hours. I know this because I’ve been counting down the days with something like tears or sweat trickling down my spine. It’s funny because everyone knows that a singular test isn’t very representative of your intelligence or your ability to succeed. Yet here I am, ready to take a test meant to do exactly that. A test supposedly meant to represent me as a person, to tell colleges exactly who I am.

Here’s a funny story: there once was a psychologist named Carl Brigham who created a standardized test in 1926 designed to test one’s scholarly potential, to clean up the nepotistic college application process in the twentieth century. The test was widely accepted and seemed like a great idea, until you realize Brigham was really into eugenics or, in other words, blood supremacy. That was obviously an issue and led to a rebranding.

in the late 20th century where the College Board renamed the test to the scholastic assessment test (as opposed to the scholastic aptitude test from the 20s). It didn’t work out. So they rebranded again. And again. And again. Until they finally gave up and decided the SAT just wasn’t going to stand for anything. The SAT. An empty acronym.

And perhaps that’s fitting because the SAT’s less-than-stellar past bleeds through history into a less-than-stellar present. In “Sex, Race, and Marriage,” Claude M. Steele argues that the SAT only measures about 18 percent of the factors that determine someone’s freshman year grade. And I don’t know what that says about me, because I’m staring at the evidence of the SAT’s absurdity and yet I’m prepared to partake in this broken system anyway. I’m fully aware that the SAT isn’t meant to test your intelligence, it’s to test your capacity to spend money on things like prep courses, the tests themselves, and, eventually, college. And this knowledge of the SAT’s history, this knowledge of its futility, still renders themselves meaningless. 

Or perhaps it could mean something. Perhaps all it means is to take the SAT less seriously. Because let’s be honest, the SAT isn’t going to become obsolete until the American education system fully changes the way it screens and accepts students, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon. So all one can change is their mentality. Take out some of that frustration and mock the exam viciously. And if you get a low score, so what? Plenty

of students get into college without even taking the SAT. Plenty of students have a great future without even considering the SAT. And perhaps I’m lying to myself. And perhaps all this is leading up to a moment of zemblanity. But perhaps in this way it wouldn’t be tears and sweat trickling down my spine. It would be anger, steely, keeping my mind sharp and hands steady. At this exam, I was stricken. At this injustice, I seethe.