Sneaking a Peek at the SAT

First published October, 1993     

        If you have a son or daughter in high school, the chances are that SAT and PSAT have joined MTV, BLT, and ESPN and other abbreviations in your teenager’s daily vocabulary.

     The SAT is the Scholastic Aptitude Test.  It’s the examination that most colleges use to help decide whether or not to let your child walk their hallowed halls.  The PSAT is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.  It’s the test you take to help prepare for the SAT.

     For students who are getting ready for one of these tests, the College Board, the company that makes the exams, has provided a preview quiz, and a peek at it leaves me glad that I have left those ivy-covered walls behind me.

     One part of the verbal section calls for filling in blanks with words like propensity, virulence, egalitarian, paucity, ubiquitous, and obdurate.  Sorry, you can’t take a dictionary to the test. 

     You’ll need a pretty sharp No. 2 pencil to get past the analogy section.  Remember the fun you had with ones like this?

            SHOULDER: ROAD  a/ pane:window  b/ cup:bottle  c/grain:leather  d/ driveway:garage    e/ margin:page

     Which would you select? 

     Pack your bags for college if you selected “e.”

     The math section might disqualify many of us from entering Harvard or Yale.  I aced the first question, which asked me to divide the square root of 100 by the square root of 25.  In other words, divide 10 by 5.  The level of difficulty rachets several notches higher with the next few problems which involve x and y integers in ordered pairs, apples which are somehow divided into 74 baskets, and finding how many yellow marbles are in a bag of red, black, and yellow ones.

     Most of us have fond memories of “story problems.”  These timeless favorites are still with us.  A current example capitalizes on the popularity of basketball.  It seems that a player has an average of 22 points per game for eight games.  We are asked to determine the total number of points this player must score in the next two games in order to have an average of 20 points per game for 10 games.

     You’ll slam-dunk this one if you come with 24.

     Another unit involves quantitative comparison questions. This sounds hard and a glance at the practice sheet proves it.  Angles and equations are offered which require astute reasoning and calculation.  Sometimes there is insufficient information to determine that answer, and that’s your answer.

     A quick perusal of the PSAT preview test leaves you with a renewed respect for today’s scholars and a certain sympathy for them as they “sweat out” their college exams.  To further complicate things, some of the questions are not even multiple-choice.  You have conjure the answer all by yourself.

    The test-makers say they have tried to eliminate certain biases against women and minorities.  I suspect, though, that there still remains the same bias there has always been.

     That’s the one against those of us who are “intellectually disadvantaged.”