The problem with America’s college entrance exam

The problem with America’s college entrance exam


These 50 cards represent every person who
took the SAT college entrance exam in 2017. In America, this score — this ranking of
students — is hugely important. Elite schools like Yale or Harvard select
the large majority of their students from this pile —
the top 1 percent of test takers. And it’s not just super elite schools. A public flagship state school, like the University
of Georgia, admits most of its students from this pile. And even a less selective school, like Wichita
State University, admits most of its students from this pile. All three of these ranges are higher than
the average score. This why people pay lots of money to train
for the test with companies like Princeton Review, Kaplan, and PrepScholar. A slightly higher score can make a big difference. That’s also why some really rich people
got caught paying lots of money to help their kids cheat on the test. “Dozens of coaches, actors, and CEOs…” “Felicity Huffman accused of paying $15,000 to have someone either take the exam for their child, or to correct their child’s answers afterward..” Your place in this ranking can have a huge
impact on what opportunities come your way. So it’s worth asking… what exactly does the SAT measure? What does this score actually say about you? To answer this question, we have to start
with this man: Carl Brigham. He was a young psychologist during World War
I who was obsessed with measuring human
intelligence. He would devise puzzles for soldiers that
supposedly measured their intelligence by testing whether they could decode symbols, draw missing parts of a picture, or even complete maze. He concluded that white people of English,
Scottish, and Dutch descent were smartest. At the very bottom were black people and recent
immigrants from Poland and Italy. He ignored the fact that some test takers
didn’t speak English. So answering a question like “How many are
60 guns and 5 guns” could be difficult. He ignored how some people were barred from
receiving an adequate education. Which meant some puzzles, like this one, could
be quite challenging. He just assumed the scores reflected the innate
intelligence of different races. And because of this, he wrote that black people
were so much less intelligent that America should worry about “racial admixture” which
would “incorporate the negro into our racial stock” — and “taint” the population. After World War I, Brigham wrote a new test
to measure the intelligence of prospective college students. He included word and number puzzles, like: Pick the three words below that are most related: Chops, liver, round, fore-quarter, rump, sirloin. Yeah, I don’t know, either. Anyway, Brigham’s exam was called the Scholastic
Aptitude Test. The SAT. The SAT wasn’t very popular at first. In 1941, just 10,000 people took the exam. That was just 1 percent of high school seniors. Most colleges just didn’t need it. They didn’t have that many applicants, partially
because less than 10 percent of people Americans went to college. So they could spend more time with each application. And many elite schools administered their
own entrance exams. Then, World War II ended. Millions of troops returned to the US. And there was a new benefit white veterans
could take advantage of: the GI Bill — which helped them pay for college. And college enrollment skyrocketed. All of a sudden, colleges had way more applications
to sort through. And they needed a tool to help them figure
out who to accept. So they started requiring the SAT, which gave
them some numerical way to rank applicants. Meanwhile, the College Board recognized that
Americans didn’t love the idea of an “intelligence test” determining their future. So they started saying their exam measured
college preparedness. And every few years, they proved it — by
saying their exam, along with high school grades, were a good predictor of how well
students do in college. They still do this. For example, here’s that analysis from this
year. It shows that high school GPA alone gets us
about halfway to predicting college GPA. But the College Board sold schools on this
next part: If we consider SAT scores along with high school GPA, this prediction can
get a bit better. And colleges bought into this rebranding,
and started asking for SAT scores. In 1941, just 10,000 students took the SAT. By 1950, 80,000 students took the exam. By 1960, 800,000 students took the SAT. By the next decade, it rose to a million.. Now, more than 2 million students take the
exam each year. And as the competition for college ramped
up, the applications got stronger. In 1982, the average high school graduate
completed Algebra or maybe Algebra 2. By 2004, the average student was closer to
Trigonometry. Also, more students had extracurriculars on
their applications. In 1992, just 19 percent of high school students
were leaders in an extracurricular activity. Just 12 years later, in 2004, that number
doubled. As the competition got stiffer, students started
applying to way more schools. In 1967, about 40 percent of students applied
to more than two schools. Now, it’s more than 80 percent of students. And a decent chunk of them apply to more than
6 schools. All of this overwhelmed admissions offices. So they started to rely even more on the SATs. In 1993, 46 percent of schools gave “considerable
importance” to SAT scores. By 2005, it was 59 percent. But looming over the increasing weight of
this number, was this other thing the SAT seemed to measure. Wealth. It’s apparent in the data. Here’s a chart of the average SAT scores by
family income. Students whose families earn less than $20,000
score around 890 — way below average. And as we move up the income brackets, students
score higher and higher. The wealthiest students — whose parents earn
more than $200,000 — score an average of 1150. Now, defenders of the SAT have often said
there’s nothing wrong with the test itself. They say this score is just reflecting the
inequality in America. And that’s not wrong. We can follow that logic up the chain. We can start with America’s highly unequal
neighborhoods. Schools in poor neighborhoods are more likely
to be under-resourced. And students from more affluent neighborhoods
and schools tend to score higher on the SAT. In turn, students with better SAT scores go
to more selective colleges. And this system is a cycle. When Stanford researcher Raj Chetty and his
colleagues tracked people born in the early-1980s, he found that these people — who went to
the most selective colleges — — had parents who earned, on average, $171,000
a year. The parents of these people, who went to selective
public colleges, earned $87,000. And those who attended community colleges
had parents who earned $67,000 a year. And through this system, that wealth was passed
on. Chetty and his colleagues found that students
who graduated from these elite colleges earned, on average, $82,500 a year by their early-30s. Those who went to a selective public college
earned half that — $41,600. And those who went to a community college
were at about $30,000. But Chetty and his colleagues found that,
if low-income student gets the opportunity to attend a more selective school, they’re able to graduate — and earn just as much money as their classmates. In 2016, the College Board redesigned the
SAT. The old test tried to trip up test-takers
— for example, asking about the meaning of obscure words like “acrimonious.” The new one tries to test what you’ve learned
in school — to try to make it less of an intelligence test. For example, it’ll show you a sentence like:
The jungle has an intense clustering of bugs. And then ask: What does “intense” most nearly mean? Emotional
Concentrated Brilliant
Determined Still, your SAT score measures how well you’ll
do in college, to a degree. It also measures where you grew up — and
what opportunities you had. But it’s also a tool that keeps this inequality
machine going. College Board president David Coleman sees
this happening. He recently wrote:
“We need a far humbler view of the SAT. They should never be more than one factor
in an admissions decision. Low scores should never be a veto on a student’s
life.” The SAT was created in the pursuit of precision. An effort to measure what we’re capable of — to predict what we can do. What we might do. What we’ve forgotten is that, often, that
can’t be untangled from where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and what we’ve been given.

100 thoughts on “The problem with America’s college entrance exam

  1. Malaysia has broken this cycle where the poor, who were mostly of Malay ethnicity, are able to attend university and earn a better living through the introduction of UiTM: Universiti Teknologi MARA.

  2. Dont let this fool you. I never took the SAT in high school, only the TSI which I took online and was granted full financial aide at a local college.

  3. That doesn’t count the fact that a lot of students get really nervous about testing and theirgrades are way better than their SAT scores but their grades aren’t really taken into account as much as SAT scores

  4. Does the type of college matter where you go to?
    To me it’s more like the effort you put in to achieve your career is all that matters; either you got accepted in an Ivy League school or even a community college.
    What do y’all think?

  5. Im so glad my country (Costa Rica) was smart enough to abolish the army and use that money in education, here you can get an education from kindergarten to college basically for free. Public Colleges do require an examen, but it is really all about logic and reason more than other stuff (I did the exam a while ago

  6. Here in Brazil, there is a very similar process through a test called ENEM (National High School Exam), as well as university entrance exams and other programs. But nothing can solve this same deficiency that occurs in the United States and I believe in more countries.

  7. It’s also a scam of where you have to pay to take the SAT. Yes you can get a waiver, but it’s limited. And the SAT is designed so if you take it again, odds are that you will score higher. So if you want to retake the test multiple times, higher income students have more ability todo so.

  8. Imagine decreasing kids scores because there parents made good financial decisions. Also different schools vary in difficulty so GPA isn’t standardized.

  9. At the end you go to collage, get yourself buried on student loans and the guy how fix the cable earns more money, just bc he is doing a job nobody wants and he didn't went to school.

  10. How about we encourage poor kids to learn entrepreneurship instead of shaming them for not going college and drown in an ocean of student debt?

  11. The SAT is an outdated measurement method.
    I was forced by my teachers and the high school I went to too take the test. Or I was going to be kicked out.
    I scored 1,130. I was considered smart, here's the problem. I have been working as a plumber for my step dad since I was 7 years old.
    I took every shop class and left high school with a commercial welding license and knocked off 2 years of my plumbing apprenticeship. All on the schools dime.
    Not everyone is college bound, my classmates are 20,000$ to 200,000$ in debt and I made 22$ an hour the day I left school.
    I went to a reunion 5 years after high school and every one was miserable, college was killing them to the point where they weren't really raising there own kids.
    I made a name so big for myself that I have total control over my career. I work Monday through Thursday for 10 hours days and have Fridays off just to spend time with my two sons. And I work half days on Sundays to do paperwork as labor formen.
    Schools need to specialized towards certain fields and not just college. I send my sons to a CTE school that only deals with manufacturing and trade careers, one of my sons carpentery teachers has been in the field for 43 years and teachs now.
    I find trade men are more relaxed and chill. They just let life roll for the most part, these college people are rude and most have no sense of humor.(some do)

  12. 7:35 „to make it less of an intelligence test“
    What?
    A) Knowing the meaning of obscure words has more to do with education than intelligence.
    B) Who would want this test not to be an intelligence test? Would you not want intelligent people to carry out complex professions?

  13. We should just eliminate the middle man. Let the Huffmans just directly pay for their kids entrance. With a catch- they have to also pay for 2 kids in the lower 25% to attend the school of their choice.

  14. So you're saying, having more money means your children have access to better school, they'll receive better educations, and then companies will want to pay a premium for employees who graduate from the top universities? Jesus, that brilliant. Much informative – great insightful.

    Sounds like the SAT actually WORKS as designed.

  15. Every developed and undeveloped safe countries uses a test to get people into college. Unfortunately, in the US this is considered unfair.

  16. You have a lot of misinformation in here starting with Whites being given GI loans after WWII. My Dad was an American Indian, not White, he was given a GI loan. All GI's were given GI loans and College educations. All Americans are exposed to the same culture, the same information, every person has the opportunity to learn and grow and become better than they were in the past… as always, what you do with your life is up to you. No one is going to give you something you have to earn for yourself. If making good grades in School is important to you, then you will learn and make good grades in school. If not, then you don't make good grades in school. Yes, it measures intelligence. If you're not to smart, regardless of what economic back ground you come from… you are just not to smart, you may want to go to trade school, you will probably make more money and be happier than you ever could by flunking out of college.

  17. a lot is to do with suppy and demand, if we let too many people become doctors there wouldnt be the premium wage they recieve

  18. We would literally be better off just bidding to get into certain schools. All the good schools are only meant for the rich anyway. All these videos about college make me so mad, it’s such a scam all around. It’s better for your mental health and your life just to go to a trade school or community college.

  19. How does a man, Carl Brigham, who literally has a PhD ignore such a basic irregularity in his research studies? Sounds to me like he was the one with the lowest intelligence.

  20. A friend of mine who doesn't really put much effort into school or get good grades got a 1490 on her SAT, while I got a 1240. I took calculus my junior year, and being ahead in math has been a killer to my SAT scores. No matter how much studying I do, there's just some concepts I don't understand anymore. I'm taking it again in October and I'm pretty nervous even though I know I have a lot of more individual qualifications. I've never liked standardized testing and the pressure it puts on students. My psych teacher was saying that because of how the scores are normed, it puts students against each other because 50% of the scores have to be under a certain cutoff.

  21. This leaves out that when controlled for things like wealth and inequality racial differences in IQ still emerge along the lines of Asians > Jews > White > Black.

  22. i mean, your last sentence can also be parsed to mean "the privileged ARE more deserving.. ".

    was that really what you were going for, vox?

  23. When you hear that the "poor" families in the US earn $67000, and in your country an average family earns $6000 by a year…

  24. I did get into college (my back up) but watching this just made me feel really ashamed. When I was a senior I had a 3.5 GPA but I got less than average on the SAT and ACT. I should have studied harder but also we need a better system.

  25. 4:43 my school has a graduation requirement of 20 credits, which is equal to 8 semesters or all four years. Even if you take no advanced classes and don’t double up, you will get through algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2 by the end of junior year, meaning you are required to take at least one upper level math class (trigonometry, calculus, etc).

  26. The problem with the system today is that the main goal after high school is college. Sure, it's valuable to learn, but it's not for everyone. Something like 25% of kids actually graduate, yet it's either that or nothing, as far as my high school experience shows (I am a senior right now). Many more students would be much better served by learning a trade (like welding, plumbing, HVAC, etc.). And where I live (Southeastern Texas), these jobs are in high demand. However, the main focus of my high school and its counselors is simply getting students graduated or on to college, without much information given at all about what other options there are. Not to mention the classes offered, with near-to-none specifying in anything technical.

  27. I think the sat causes a lot of division among classmates based on score but also on income and privilege in general but

  28. colleges need a selection tool and this is as good as any in my humble opinion. the big problem is that students that go to community college/non-ivy league schools should then be able to apply for similar jobs as those who go to harvard and get similar incomes, and companies are starting to realise this. big employers like google don't care if you went to harvard or to phoenix online community college as long as you can do the work. you break the cycle by coming from a poor neighbourhood and work your way up being able to afford to live in a better neighbourhood

  29. When it comes to getting a job it’s the interview that matters, you could go to one of the top 10 colleges in America but if you can’t interview your not getting it.

  30. pick the three words most related: answer: round, rump, and sirloin because they are all standard retail cuts of beef

  31. 2:21 The three words most closely related: Fore-quarter, Rump, Sirloin.

    They’re all different kinds of butcher cuts for beef..

  32. i watched a korean drama, "Sky Castle", that shows us how difficult and competitive it is to get into top-tier universities in South Korea. ive never really given much thought about how competitive it is in the US until the news about Felicity Huffman broke out, then now im on this video and i think that it might be the same in every other countries!

  33. Mmh… Can u also smell lot of useless education and numerous debts?
    Because today's "education" is more business and a piace of paper required for stupids jobs than learning actually useful things and how to use it.

  34. What's the problem? How else should the limited educational resources distributed? You have to be better to get better chance. If your background is not as supportive as it should be, then work harder. Equality and equity are two different things.

  35. In Asian countries like Korea, college entrance exams are held only once a year and are the main factor in getting into college. I wonder what the income ratios are for top schools are and what steps they take to ensure socioeconomic diversity.

  36. ever considered that richer families have children who do. better on the sat bc the parents of those families were smart enough to get rich?

  37. I personally don't agree with this view on trying to spin everything on an intangible concept of "privilege". Measuring SAT scores just shows how determined a student is. Sure you can utilize paid subscriptions to get help but someone on their own with their own research is well able of scoring high. Trying to justify that people putting in low effort are equal to those putting in high effort just devalves those who put the actual work in. Coming from my own point of view look at the Irish who immigrated to America in droves whom had to will to succeed, all of which came from extremely unprivileged backgrounds. And it didn't matter, they got where they wanted to be based off skill and perseverance, not "privilege"

  38. Went to community college – never took the SAT. Graduating this year from university with a high GPA. Cheat the system! Lol

  39. “A tool that keeps the inequality measure going”?? A very disrespectful statement to those who study and get good grades. It is only an insignificant excuse people use who don’t study at all and try to invalidate hardworking students’ efforts.

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