Criticism for SAT Reasoning Test (SAT)


A famous example of alleged bias in the SAT I was the oarsman-regatta analogy question. The object of the question was to find the pair of terms that have the relationship most similar to the relationship between "runner" and "marathon." The correct answer was "oarsman" and "regatta." Choice of the correct answer presupposed students' familiarity with a sport popular with the wealthy, and so upon their knowledge of its structure and terminology. Fifty-three percent (53%) of white students - who in greater numbers come from higher income households - correctly answered the question, while only 22% of black students - who disproportionately came from lower income households - also scored correctly. Analogy questions have since been replaced by short reading passages.

Dropping SAT

A growing number of liberal arts colleges have responded to this criticism by joining the SAT optional movement. These colleges do not require the SAT for admission.

In a 2001 speech to the American Council on Education, Richard C. Atkinson, the president of the University of California, urged dropping the SAT Reasoning Test as a college admissions requirement:

    "Anyone involved in education should be concerned about how overemphasis on the SAT is distorting educational priorities and practices, how the test is perceived by many as unfair, and how it can have a devastating impact on the self-esteem and aspirations of young students. There is widespread agreement that overemphasis on the SAT harms American education."

In response to threats by the University of California to drop the SAT as an admission requirement, the College Entrance Examination Board announced the restructuring of the SAT, to take effect in March 2005, as detailed above.


In 2005, MIT Writing Director Les Perelman plotted essay length versus essay score on the new SAT from released essays and found a high correlation between them. After studying 23 graded essays he found that the longer the essay was the higher the score. He also discovered that several of these essays were full of factual errors. However, the official SAT guide for scorers state that the essays should be scored according to their quality of writing and not factual accuracy. The National Council of Teachers of English also criticize the 25-minute writing section of the test, arguing that the basic principles of writing encourage the revision of written material several times. They say that the amount of time allowed for the test pushes schools to develop a formulaic system of writing.

Test preparation

SAT test preparation is a highly lucrative field. Many companies and organizations offer test preparation in the form of books, classes, online courses, tutoring and only recently, board games. Large organizations include Kaplan and the Princeton Review. Smaller companies such as Jefferson Prep and ThinkTank Learning specialize in private tutoring and exam preparation. Some have criticized the SAT because preparation often can lead to much higher scores, but some have embraced the opportunity to improve their scores.

Some test-preparation programs have been proven to help students improve test scores, but others may have little effect.