The SAT at GHS


Thomas Reed, Contributing Writer

The room is filled with despair and anxiety, the desks arranged meticulously. The teacher at the from of the room reads the paper in her hand, word-for-word, making sure to not stray from what is expected during that day. Each student has a No. 2 pencil, a calculator, and a test packet. The future of their educations depend on the tests they are about to take. While some may feel confidence, most feel dread, not knowing what awaits them.

These standardized tests – the SATs – are what most colleges and universities use as  a reasonable measure of knowledge. Since its debut in 1926, the SAT has become commonplace in the admissions process of most colleges… for better, or for worse. Standardized testing has become a profitable business that financially benefits everyone involved, hence its prominence in the education system today.

Is this an effective way to determine whether or not students can succeed in college? Standardized testing is a square hole for pegs of a multitude of shapes. Many pegs struggle to fit the mold that has been cast; this, needless to say, is a bad thing for today’s students. As college gains importance on the road to job success, the need to fit the mold grows more important; mandatory standardized testing is to blame for this.

Ainsley Miles was one of the many GHS students who took the yearly SAT provided for juniors at Goffstown High. Months prior, she took the PSATs, which she said helped prepare her for what the SATs were like – minus the essay, which her AP Literature & Language made up for. The math portion, however, was difficult for Ainsley. “I think that the math part was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” she explained. “It gives you less time for the amount of questions… I struggled to do quick math in my head.”

Ainsley believes that giving students more time to do the SAT and less time constraint would give a better opportunity for students to do better, believing that the lack of time makes some students blank out under pressure.

Caroline Prud’homme, another GHS student taking the SATs, said that they were too long. “I’m not a very good test taker, so I thought it was stressful. I thought it was a long day, I would say,” Prud’homme stated. She suggested that longer breaks would help make the SATs less stressful. Taking it in GHS, however, helped due to the familiarity of the setting.

Abby Nidbala, also a GHS junior, had concerns similar to those of Prud’homme’s. “One benefit of taking it in GHS [is that there are] smaller groups,” Nidbala interjected. “If an incident happened where the test scores could be compromised it would only affect a small amount of people.” The strict rules that the College Board enforces were one of the concerns Abby Nidbala brought up, saying that they made the test more stressful.

Both Prud’homme and Nidbala, like Miles, said the hardest portion was the math portion – specifically the “write-in math section”, in which students must write down their answer, with no choices to base their answer off. The inability to know whether they were doing the math correctly made this section the hardest out of the entire SAT. On the other hand, the essay portion was a breeze for both students thanks to AP Language & Literature and AP Language & Composition.

The common concerns of each interviewee were the SAT’s time structure and the mathematics portion. Their answers suggest that the SAT likely needs to be tweaked in the future to be a more effective method of testing students’ capabilities – a suggestion in which I agree with. Although not every question in life gives four answers to use in the process of finding the solution, “write-in answers” are not found in the English sections. Are they really necessary to include in the Math section if they only confuse and slow down students? It may seem like a silly nitpick, but do keep in mind that students’ futures are determined by this one test, therefore it’s important to give them a fair chance.

Could the schedule of the SATs be changed in a way that makes it effective without compromising its integrity? It’s best to think about it in the sense of final exams; At GHS, final exams are taken on different days, with exams covering different subjects. If the final exams at Goffstown (as well as the many other schools that may take a similar approach at final exams) are done in such a manner, then why can’t the SATs do something similar? Splitting it into multiple days would give students time to breathe, allowing them to perform better and think more clearly.