Battlepanda: The blogger's SAT Challenge


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The blogger's SAT Challenge

I meant to blog about this contest while y'all had a chance to enter, but didn't get to in time. The concept is simple -- bloggers are asked to respond to an SAT essay question in 20 minutes. The answers were then graded by expert graders (such as myself, ha) and posted anonymously.

Here's the question

And here's my response

Frankly, I didn't do so well for somebody who actually, taught the SATs, albeit only for a month. But at least I'm not alone. According to actual experts with actual experience in the SAT teaching process, we bloggers are definitely not the shit when it comes to the SATs.

Here's Natalie's two cents:
Overall the quality of the essays was not far above that of high school students writing their first practice essays. The biggest differences I noticed were in grammar and diction: most of the entrants wrote in complete, generally grammatical sentences, and there were fewer awkward turns of phrase and poorly-chosen "vocab words" than I see in student writing.

The organization and logical flow of the essays, on the other hand, was on the whole surprisingly sloppy. Many people seemed not to understand that the assignment was to write a persuasive essay *with a clear point of view*. Often writers tried to be clever with roundabout ways of coming at the question, but it only made my job as a grader more difficult, and grumpy graders don't give fives and sixes.

If anything, the bloggers were *worse* than high school students in getting to the point and staying on topic. They also tended to equivocate more, to argue the merits of both sides, which, though it might mark you as a reasonable person in normal discussion (in real or online life), actually hurts your SAT score

Another SAT professional was similarly unimpressed:
I was struck by the number of people who wrote essays without apparently thinking the directions applied to them. They made assumptions about the assignment, or decided that they were better judges of what the assignment should be, and then wrote what they wanted to write rather than produced what they were asked to write.

I smiled, but I wondered why do they think a scorer (and after all, pleasing the scorer is what matters much more than self-respect when taking a test) cares about their opinions?

In my other experiences as an essay scorer, my toughest decisions have been among the 3-5 scores. In the Blogger Challenge, the decisions have been more between scores of 1 and 2.
Ouch! Bloggers not following directions and being overly fond of their own opinions? Surely not.

It's not too late to join in the fun. Go to the Blogger SAT Challenge site, where each essay have been set up with a poll, so you can see if your opinion tally with that of the experts.