kitchen table math, the sequel: writers should take the SAT

Thursday, October 20, 2011

writers should take the SAT

I was just talking to Debbie S, who reminded me that a passage from one of my books appeared on an SAT critical reading section. I think it was a section of Animals in Translation, but I don't recall at the moment and can't seem to scare up the email she sent me with the passage attached).

Meanwhile Debbie is no slouch in the professional writing department, either. Her book will be published by a major house, and her advance puts her in a small and select group.

We both have 10s.

I think other writers should take the SAT and see how they do. We can compile a database. I'm serious:  I'd love to see how 'real writers' do on the SAT essay. I'm guessing we'd see a lot of 10s.

Actually, I'd like to see professors take the SAT. I'd be willing to wager a small sum of money that college professors would consistently score lower than top-scoring high school students.

I'm not exactly sure why I think this, but I imagine it has to do with the K-12 grading I've been dealing with over the years.*

*grade deflation posts


PWN the SAT said...

This is a fun idea. No matter how talented a writer you are, it's tough to nail down a coherent argument in 25 minutes writing by hand. I'd argue it's a pretty different skill than most writers and professors have developed.

Catherine Johnson said...

I don't think so!

I nailed down a coherent argument, I'm sure Debbie nailed down a coherent argument, and every professor I know could do so, too.

But I don't think they'd get 12s for their trouble.

This goes back to our experience with K-12 grading, which I decided not to put up in the post.

I'll just say here that I've seen college professors get Cs on middle school papers. (I'm not talking about me or Ed, and I'm not talking about the teacher giving a grade of C because she thought a grownup had written it.)

Katharine Beals said...

Great idea! (If only it weren't so tedious to do so).
We should also have mathematicians take the math SAT.

PWN the SAT said...

I think we're arguing different sides of the same point: that the SAT evaluates on some rubric that is not what we necessarily consider fantastic writing. What I should have said instead of "nail down a coherent argument" is "nail down the kind of argument SAT graders are looking for."

Debbie Stier said...

That's a great way of saying it. I can't WAIT to get my Essay back and see what I wrote. I *thought* it was one of my better ones (but what do I know...I also thought I did better on the math....and I had NO idea I did so well on the Writing).

Identifying more with son every second....

SATVerbalTutor. said...

The scoring for the Essay is so unbelievably random it's not even funny. There's a reason I usually spend less time on it than I do on the MC grammar -- graders can be wildly unpredictable, and it's not worth your time to try to get inside their heads.

My philosophy is that as long as you can score a solid 8 or 9 on the essay without too much trouble, you should focus on controlling what you can control. Since about 95% of the MC is controllable and since a high MC score/ok essay score will result in a MUCH higher overall score than an ok MC score/high essay score, you're better off focusing on the MC. I think Debbie's score supports that approach;)

Linda Seebach said...

There wouldn't be much point in having mathematicians take the SAT. Or the GRE, for that matter, except for the specific math test. The people who take the GRE math test cluster so close to 800 on the general GRE that the math test scores have to run up to 900 to spread them out a bit.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Linda is right, I believe, that the SAT or GRE general test math section for mathematicians would mainly be a test of clerical accuracy and tolerance for boredom, rather than of math ability.

It is possible to get a 560 on the SAT writing section while getting a 2 (lowest possible score) on the essay, so the essay is not a huge weight on the writing exam. Given how arbitrary the scoring seems to be, this is probably a good thing.