Video: Not-so-standard aptitude test

NBC News
By Ron Allen Correspondent
NBC News
updated 9/20/2006 7:12:14 PM ET 2006-09-20T23:12:14

Ariele Faber in New Jersey and Amanda Carpenter in St. Louis are high school students with very different attitudes about the SAT.

"Most people think it's not fair and a lot of people think it should be changed," says Amanda.

She says one big test should not count so much. She's even started a discussion group on the popular Web site

"Ever since elementary school you're practicing for standardized tests, and they all lead to the SAT," says Ariele, who is just a junior but already takes a 36-hour prep course on weekends, costing her parents about $1,000.

The pressure to do well on the SAT, and the fact that only some students have the means to prepare, are among the reasons more colleges are making SAT scores optional or dropping the requirement.

More than 700 have done it so far, including 13 more this year, mostly small liberal arts colleges.

You remember the SAT: 150 multiple choice questions in math and reading — questions like: "If x squared minus 36 equals 0, which of the following could be the value of x?" — and beginning last year, an essay.

"I do think there has been too much stress on the SAT scores," says Rev. Brian Shanley, president of Providence College in Rhode Island.

Providence is among the schools that made SATs optional this year.

"The best correlation in terms of how a student is going to do at Providence College is their performance in high school," he says.

At Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, a comprehensive 20-year look at the issue found SATs had no bearing on grades or graduation rates.

However, the test's supporters say colleges need a uniform measuring stick to determine, for example, what an "A" in math means at Ariele's school compared to Amanda's.

"What I know is that admissions officers are thoughtful and reflective about how test scores are used," says Jim Montoya with College Board, the group that creates the SAT.

Amanda says she'll apply to some schools that don't require tests.

Ariele hopes high SAT scores help her get into the college of her choice.

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