I came to a realization as I was taking the PSAT in October. As a freshman, this was my first experience with a full-scale standardized test. While taking the test, I realized that lots of the multiple-choice questions on the PSAT did not seem particularly useful in the grand scheme of things. I found it ridiculous that I was expected to know the definition of “contrite” and “neophyte,” ridiculously uncommon words in everyday conversation, and that there were so many math formulas to commit to memory.
To prepare for the SAT, there are countless vocabulary definitions and math formulas you need to memorize. Unfortunately, the SAT is not the only test where you are graded on your ability to memorize things. I feel as though education is based too much on your ability to memorize extensive lists of key terms and formulas. It is my belief that school should promote other types of learning besides memorization, and that children who learn in different ways should be accommodated for.
There are three types of learners: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. While memorization helps to learn things in some situations, each type of learner benefits from other types of learning. Rather than flooding students’ minds with waves of facts, classes should be based around finding the meanings and connections of those facts. Instead of having tests based on memorized definitions, there should be tests that look at your logic and your intuition.
I feel as though memorization is not a particularly productive method of learning. When a student is handed a sheet and told to know everything for the next quiz, they can learn things but not know how to apply them.
I think that the multiple-choice section of the SAT should have a different angle. Students are led to believe that your SAT score represents your intelligence levels, when in reality it tests your memorization of words and numbers. Some people do not have the mental capability to retain so much information but are very smart people who handle any situation well.
The exception to my criticism is the essay component of the SAT, since it tests your ability to adapt to a topic you have never seen before. Additionally, basic writing skills are essential to nearly every job.
The College Board states on their website that “The questions are rigorously researched and tested to make sure students from all backgrounds have an equal chance to do well.” While students from different places may all have the same chance of success, the problem lies in individual students who are not aided by SAT study techniques. Their website also claims that the SAT tests for skills “that are critical for success in college and beyond.”
In “college and beyond,” people who can solve problems and who get things done efficiently are considered intelligent, not people who know lists and lists of vocabulary words and physics formulas galore. Things like that can be Googled if need be. In a real-life situation, you can be knowledgeable about all sorts of things. However, if you are not experienced in using your knowledge in hands-on situations, it will not help much.
The way students are tested does not completely measure intelligence and needs to change. No matter what you are told, just because you cannot memorize things as easily as the next person or because the SAT is more challenging to you than most, it does not mean you are not smart.