Saturday, April 8, 2006

You will never encounter this question in college

The following sentences test your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. Each sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. No sentence contains more than one error. The error, if there is one, is underlined and lettered. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence is correct, select choice E. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.

The (A) other delegates and (B) him (C) immediately accepted the resolution (D) drafted by the neutral states. (E) No error

Recently, I mentioned that I had been reading the study guide for the new SAT. This article addresses the topic I originally wanted to discuss, before I was distracted by researching Maude Adams. (if you want to be distracted too, click here, but not now. I am talking).

You may have heard that the SAT has become longer, and in many ways more subjective, in that it has added an essay portion and a greater emphasis on writing rather than reading.

The directions above refer to the section called "Correcting Sentences for Errors," in which the student encounters a series of unrelated sentences, each of which contains (perhaps) one error. The student is instructed to select an error as the CORRECT answer.

This sort of twisted pedagogy as been going on since I was in school, and the SRA test contained a list of spelling words from which we were to circle the misspelled words. Imprinting like this is the reason Americans can’t spell such everyday occurring words as schedule, definitely, balance, and occurring. Or misspelled.

Even before that, we learned "one of these things was NOT like the other," and could we tell which thing before "I (whoever you are) finish my song"?

Some of my best friends are college-level instructors -- I have been one myself -- and I can tell you that they never ask for the incorrect answer. Argue the opposite, yes. Compare and contrast, certainly. Find the error, no. Students will come up with those on their own, easily enough, perhaps from years of being asked to select it.

These SAT directions actually end with "follow the requirements of standard written English." "Not that we did, we brain trusts of Princeton."

In the interest of full disclosure, here come my hard facts:
I did not break 1000 on the SATs. The 2nd time I took them, I did worse.

fork:spoon as Heracles:
a)Clytemnestra b) Euripides c) Vulcan c) Rameses
d) shut up

Which triangle is larger?
I got yer triangle...

I did not take the ACT at all, though I was signed up for it, and I don't remember what I did that day, but it wasn't that.

You may correct the preceding sentence for errors. They involve semicolons and comma splicing. In choosing your answers, follow the requirements of the Dewey Decimal system.

PS: the SAT is taken on a computer now. I hope the kids can type. Though if we let them take it on their cell phones, they might do all right (U gng 2 sat? C U @ *bux)

Do you know that scene in Stand and Deliver where dreamy Andy Garcia is the guy from the College Entrance Examination Board who shows up to convince the barrio girls to confess they cheated on their tests?

Do we believe this is what they look like? Because they don't.

"The College Board recently discovered that a technical processing matter affected a very small percentage of October 2005 SAT test takers. As a result, approximately 4,000 students (0.8% of the SAT Reasoning Test takers who tested during that administration) did not receive credit for some correct answers; therefore, their scores are higher than originally reported." source

You're clicking the whole time I'm talking to you, aren't you? You will never find your way back here.

Shocking as the news is, note the correct use of affect AND use of a semicolon followed by the conjunctive adverb therefore. I'm a little choked up.

Study hard, little dudes and chix. It is a rite of passage (a rite. not a right. read more, would you?) that really might determine the course of your future. It also gives you something to rant about 25 years later. But please don't confuse it with college coursework, because no one will ever give you a test like this again -- until you want to go to graduate school.

As the Board said last month, “We very much regret any further worry or inconvenience that this problem may have caused students, families, schools and colleges.”

I'm just so glad they didn't say farther.


  1. I'm SO glad to hear about your SAT scores! I got 990. 540 Verbal. 450 Math. Why do I still remember that? Of all the numbers floating around in my head, these are the ones that I retain. Obviously due to the fact that they represented my enore worth as a thinking person for so many years.
    I wonder how much they'll affect me if I choose to return to school. Will I be judged on my test-taking experience at Framinham High School when I was 16? That doesn't seem fair. Would I have to take them again? In that case, I guess college will NOT be in my future.

  2. And when I got ready to go to college, SAT and ACT were simple verbs that had nothing to do with tests!! My pet peeve is the inappropriate use of insure when they mean ensure - and I work for LAWYERS!!

  3. uh yeah my SATs *cough* sucked *cough*. I did break 1000 but by the hair on my chinny chin chin. That reminds me, I need to find the tweezers.

    Funny enough I rocked the Miller's Analogy Exam. I skillfully avoided the GREs for grad school by exercising this option. Because like, the MATs were equally as challenging as the GREs? Really??


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