My morning routine often includes the SAT Question of the Day; the mental exercise is not only fun (at least when your future doesn't ride on it), but also, I'm assuming, good for my brain.  But I've begun to worry about the system, because it's too easy.

Mind you, I didn't find the Scholastic Aptitude Test easy when I took it in high school; I did quite well but not close to a perfect score (which was 1600 back then).  What's more, I would expect to do better now, since I've had some 40 more years of experience since then.  So I'm not really complaining that the questions are rarely challenging for me; what I find concerning is that they don't seem to be much of a challenge, period.  The number of respondents who get the question right is almost always more than half, and often quite a bit more for the Verbal questions.  People don't do as well on the Math questions, but still far better than I would expect for an exam that's supposed to be challenging our brightest high school students.  I realize those who undertake the daily question are a self-selected population, which may explain their success.

Nonetheless, the level of difficulty still surprises me.  I recall the SAT being interesting and even somewhat fun, but not a cakewalk by any means.  It's true that I studied quite a bit more math after taking the test in 10th grade, but so far I've not seen a question requiring higher math—often they can be done with common sense and/or grinding through the multiple-choice responses

So, my questions:  Has the SAT really become that much easier over the years?  Is the Question of the Day deliberately taken from the easier parts of the test?  Is the idea that our faculties decrease once we get out of school just a myth?  Contrary to popular belief, is motherhood actually a challenging and stimulating profession that keeps the mind agile?  I rather like those last two ideas.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 4, 2008 at 5:40 am | Edit
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Today's question is an example of what I mean by questions being solved by common sense rather than higher math.

In a class of 80 seniors, there are 3 boys for every 5 girls. In the junior class, there are 3 boys for every 2 girls. If the two classes combined have an equal number of boys and girls, how many students are in the junior class?

If the numbers chosen had been different, this might have required the algebraic thinking they expect students to use. As it is, it requires no math beyond elementary arithmetic: There are obviously 30 boys and 50 girls in the senior class. If there are 30 boys and 20 girls in the junior, that makes a total of 60 boys and 70 girls -- not equal. Okay, how about 60 boys and 40 girls in the junior class? That makes a total of 90 boys and 90 girls -- bingo! Three quick, easy steps, no algebra needed, guessing encouraged. If the question were not so easy to guess at, it might indicate whether or not the student understands basic algebra. As it is, what is the purpose of such a question, and why is it labelled "hard"?



Posted by SusumCorda on Tuesday, May 06, 2008 at 5:40 am
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