Drooping lids heavy with the absence of sleep. Pencils scribbling with an impossible energy. A foot tapping, the only outlet of stress.
Hours flying by as time drips down the drain. Childhood runs out like sand in an hour glass, but the lack of time goes unnoticed.
Because one four-hour test is more important than a year’s worth of memories. It’s worth skipping football games and handing over a week’s worth of money to a tutor. It’s worth losing sleep. Right? Studying for the SAT is absolutely worth all that.
But it isn’t.
One test means practically nothing in the course of a lifetime. Eighty-five year old grandmas don’t reminisce about that one good score. They reminisce about life. They look back on how they wish they spent more time enjoying their childhoods, not less.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, students spend an average of 20 hours to improve by 120 points on their SATs. For a 200 point improvement, the College Board recommends 80 hours of studying. This does not include the hours spent for the initial SAT or the PSAT, which most students take twice. Several websites – including Khan Academy, Applerouth and Prepscholar – recommend starting to study for the initial SAT six months in advance.
Two PSATs, six months of studying and a pile of stress for four dreaded numbers.
Perhaps more notable than the amount of time wasted over studying is the amount of stress the SAT causes. The College Board received 80,000 accommodation requests for anxiety disorders in 2017. Numerous websites have passages dedicated to dealing with SAT stress. And it’s not just the test itself that causes anxiety. Students feel just as much if not more stress while studying for it.
According to Jantzi Test Prep, many students note interrupted sleep cycles during the time they study for the SAT, a tell-tale symptom of excessive worrying. Factor in all that study time, and this becomes dangerous. Low sleep reduces alertness and negatively affects studying capabilities, which in turn increases anxiety even more. It becomes a vicious cycle.
In addition to a decreased quality of life, studying for the SAT often becomes a money-sucking black hole. The SAT cost itself is $47.50 without any additional add-ons like the optional essay or score verification. That alone is a lot for some families to bear.
But students score higher if they study through a professional program.
Prep programs cost anywhere from $25 per hour to $1,000 per hour (if you are using Green Test Prep), and self-study packages cost a few hundred. This is simply not affordable for many families.
Data from the College Board shows that test takers with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year consistently score lower on average in SAT scores than families with higher incomes. A test by DOME Exam Prep revealed a 40 point increase in test scores for every additional $20,000 in income.
Even though the data is a generality, studying for the SAT is less about educational aptitude and more about financial ability than it should be.
Finally, studying actually violates the purpose of the SAT. According to College Board, the SAT was developed to compare students’ capabilities across schools because all schools teach and test differently. Colleges want to know what students have learned and retained, not what they crammed in for a single test. In order for the SAT to be an accurate portrayal or a student’s abilities, the test should be a surprise to everyone.’
The only thing that should be tested is students’ minds. Not their money, or the amount of time they wasted. Certainly not their lack of sleep.
The only way to do this is to change the SAT each year; in effect, make it unstudiable.