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## Lowest Raw Score Ever on the SAT747

An anonymous reader writes "Lowest Raw Score Ever on the SAT. Relax! You are practically guaranteed to have done better on the SAT than this guy! But the competition for most extreme negative raw score is just beginning..."
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## Lowest Raw Score Ever on the SAT

• #### Top 2% (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:01AM (#5924750) Homepage
Is 1250 really a top 2%? There's something really disturbing about that...

(That's only about 2.5\sigma from the mean...)
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Informative)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:08AM (#5924775)
My understanding is that the mean is roughly 950 or so, which means that a lot of people are very tightly packed between there and 1250.
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Informative)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:40AM (#5924864)
1250 is no longer the top 2%, it's about the top 10%. At or slightly before the recentering in '95, it was probably the top 2% (because it was roughly equivalent to a present-day 1400).

That's my reasoning, anyway. I wonder if figuring all this stuff out is part of the test. (Is there a reason that what any sane person would call a "zero" is a 400 on the SATs?)

• #### Re:The reason (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @08:34AM (#5925472)
The truth is, SAT scores fall on a range of 400-1600 because they are calculated by rolling 4d4.
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:4, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @09:43AM (#5925698)
"(Is there a reason that what any sane person would call a "zero" is a 400 on the SATs?"

The idea is that each section of the SAT is theoretically scored from 0 to 1000, with a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100 points. After calculating the scores, they drop the low and high outliers and shift them to 200 or 800 respectively, keeping three standard deviations from the mean.
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:41AM (#5924867) Journal
One potentially poignant note is the date restriction on that stat,
For example, an SAT combined score of 1250 (
1974-1994 SAT editions) correlates with a Stanford-Binet IQ of 132, the top 2% of humanity, and thus qualifies a person for Mensa.
I took an IQ test in '93 (though I don't know whether or not it was of the Stanford-Binet variety) and scored 140. I took the SAT in '96 and scored 1360. Wonder what a 1360 at that point in time boils down to, percentile-of-humanity wise...

Though I'll agree with you about the disturbing factor - I consider myself to be intelligent, but if I'm in the top 2% of all humanity, then God help us!
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Insightful)

<darien AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 10, 2003 @06:17AM (#5925181)
Interesting to note that the top 2% of the population includes people who chose names like "Motherfucking Shit."
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @07:01AM (#5925259)
Sometimes makes you wonder if the large number of "2% smartest" people are related to the large number of people who think they are in the "top 5% wealthiest" category. :)

That said, our society doesn't generally deal well with extreme intelligence. As soon as it is realized that you score well on standardized tests (which is what these measures actually measure, not "intelligence"), there is extraordinary pressure not to "waste" that intelligence. It is usually assuming that a rigorous program of schooling-- and usually in schools controlled by people who are decidedly average intelligence-wise-- is the best course. This is probably a mistake.

Most schools are not designed to nurture independent learning (or thought, really). The medium is a large part of the message and that message is, "obey arbitrary authority, move around at the sound of the bell, you are smart enough to learn the world's history, physics, and advanced match, but you are not smart enough to manage your own time or decide who should teach you what."

Is it any wonder, then, that some of the nation's brightest stars get bored or upset or choose fairly antisocial ways of expressing themselves? The worst case is when those "smart" kids come from otherwise average families. Those parents may act like they've hit the lottery, or simply continue to apply pressure (apparently even subtle sticks are more common than any kind of carrot in these situations) to urge the kid to "use their full potential" or whatever. It's a bit like a gardener who would try to grow his plants faster by sitting in the garden and pulling on the tops of the plants.
• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:5, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2003 @10:46AM (#5925929)

I got mid 170s in an IQ test that the school/state put me in for - at the time I didn't even know I was doing an IQ test. I was just doing fun and fairly easy spatial and verbal puzzles for an afternoon - some part of which was talking to an entertaining and interesting person (an educational psychologist).

If I had realised the implications of what I was doing I would have flunked it. Twenty-two years later I can look back at a lot of bad-times and finger that test as a cause.

It is usually best that most people do not think of you as belonging to a privileged group.

Schools are awful - merely open prisons for children, ways of keeping them of the streets while their parents work society's treadmills, while preparing them for the same life of indentured servitude. :-)

Read some Ivan Illich [infed.org] . He frames his arguments better than I do.

"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question." Ivan Illich Deschooling Society (1973)

• #### Re:Top 2% (Score:3, Funny)

Its the dual-purpose F density curve, proposed by on of my professors:
In any give class, The first exam(s) will have the most Fs, the middle will have the least, and the final will approach the first, leading to something resembling an inverted bell curve, biased to the low end. It is also a plot of frequency of the F word versus intelligence.
• #### Extreme Intelligence is Overrated (Score:5, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2003 @10:35AM (#5925890)

Last time I had an IQ test (in the twightlight of my HS years), I believe I fell within the top .1% of the population. (I can really be an ass and say that the score was probably a tad lower then what my real IQ was at the time - since I went for speed in taking the test.)

So, I'm a smart person. Yah! A very super-duper intelligent person. Am I doing better in life because of it? Nope.

Intelligence does influence how successful you'll be in life, but it is not the only factor. Social skills (which I'm lacking), confidence (lacking again), and an extroverted nature also plays a huge factor in your success in life.

I'm currently sitting back at a crappy job, watching the world go by at the age of 24, while I try to figure what the hell I want. My former classmates, some with more drive then me, are probably pulling down 5x what I make in a year.

Intelligence is overrated...

• #### Re:It's amazing, really (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @08:32AM (#5925465)
Lots and lots of people are in the top 2% of humanity.

Judging from a quick mental run-through of the SAT scores and IQs of people I know, I'd say about 1/3 of everybody fits in the 98th percentile.

And about 2/3 of everybody has at least one shoebox full of blue ribbons.

We're one spart pack of motherfuckers, I tell ya.
• #### Re:It's amazing, really (Score:4, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @09:36PM (#5928762) Journal

This reminds me of the time I was at some social gathering, and the topic of IQ came up. We all volunteered our IQs. Mine was 130 at the time based on a test I took in 7th grade. It later shot up to 150 based on a test with a psychologist, taken for the purpose of determining why I was having difficulty in college. If it makes any difference, my SAT was 1320 and I took it in 1985, before they dumbed it down.

Anyhow, the girl volunteered that her IQ was 105. That was the lowest that anybody fessed up to that evening. I thought since 100 was supposed to be average, either the IQ tests are bogus, or there are a lot of institutes for the retarded hidden away in the woods. I mean, this girl was dumb. The thought of more than 50% of the world being dumber than her was terrifying to me. Of course now I realize that intelligence isn't everything.

The girl was not bad looking. I wouldn't be surprised if she did just fine. I dropped out of college for two years shortly after that last test. I still consider myself to be "in recovery".

• #### Hrm (Score:4, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:07AM (#5924765) Homepage Journal
Theoreticaly, answering all the questions wrong would be as difficult as answering all the questions correctly, wouldn't it? I suppose that for some questions, you might not know if maybe two or three of the questions is right, but that the others are wrong, but still...
• #### Re:Hrm (Score:2, Insightful)

by Anonymous Coward
no, if random, you've 3/4 chance of getting it wrong, 1/4 of getting right.
• #### Yeah, but (Score:2)

If you had a 3/4th chance of getting each question wrong, you'll have (3/4)^n chance of getting all the questions wrong. On the other hand, you'll have a (1/4) chance of getting each question right, and (1/4)^n chance of getting all of the questions right. Both of those aproach zero as N aproaches infinity.

Of course, these tests are not infinetly long, but with n=100, you have a 10^-13 chance of getting all questions wrong randomly, and a 10^-61 chance of getting everything right by randomly guessing. B
• #### Re:Hrm (Score:2, Interesting)

actually... if there is a multiple choice question where 1/4 answers is correct... then it would be 3/4 questions are incorrect. making it 300% easier to go for every question wrong than to go for every question right.
• #### Re:Hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:31AM (#5924846)
I suppose that for some questions, you might not know if maybe two or three of the questions is right, but that the others are wrong, but still...

For some? Eliminating wrong answers is a crucial part of the SAT strategy. On top of that, you can pick the answer you're MOST sure is wrong, as for many problems (esp. reading comprehension) you may decide that it's probably A, but there's an outside chance that they might want C. Besides, you can save a tremendous amount of time by only having to find the first wrong answer, rather than figuring out which is the right answer. Remember, part of the difficulty of the SAT is that it is a timed test (or so they say, I never had any problems with time). Finally, guessing a right answer is only 1/3-1/5 (depending on the type of problem), but guessing a wrong answer is fairly likely, so you're likely to get a perfect 0 even if you have to guess on 3 or 4 problems.

I didn't get a perfect raw SAT score (probably only a handful of people in the country do each year, a 1600 scaled actually allows one to get several problems wrong, generally around 3 or 4 verbal and 1 or 2 math), but I feel quite confident that I would be able to get a perfect 0.

• #### Re:Hrm (Score:3, Insightful)

I think thats a fundamental flaw with the SAT. In order for the test to be "uncoachable" or at least "less coachable" The answers should all look plausible. If there are any that are clearly wrong, this gives a "coached" student an advantage. I.e somone who is good at taking the SAT will do better than somone who is equally knowledgeable, except about the SAT test. If the question is
1+1=

the answers should be something like:

a:1

b:2

c:0

d none of the above

e all of the above

And for sure every questio

• #### Re:Hrm (Score:2)

incorrect; there are more false options than true options, so when you mess up in the act of selecting the answer you believe to not be the correct one, you still have some slack. If you think about it statistically it works out easily as well: 4/5 for all those questions in a row is much easier than 1/5 for all of them (are there 4 or 5 options per question? can't remember..).
• #### Re:Old statistics puzzle (Score:3, Interesting)

This is an old puzzler question:

A teacher gives a true false test to three students. One gets 100% correct so gets an 'A'. One gets 50% correct so gets an 'F'. The third gets none correct but the teacher still gives him an 'A'. Why?
• #### Re:Old statistics puzzle (Score:3, Funny)

A teacher gives a true false test to three students. One gets 100% correct so gets an 'A'. One gets 50% correct so gets an 'F'. The third gets none correct but the teacher still gives him an 'A'. Why?

The third student was pokin' the teacher.
• #### on the positive side... (Score:4, Funny)

<inkedmn@inEULERkedmn.com minus math_god> on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:08AM (#5924770) Homepage
at least he's got a bright future in politics or with Microsoft's QA department
• #### Best line (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:12AM (#5924783)
As I can only assume that this page is going to be slashdotted in the next few minutes, I feel its important to share with everyone the best part of the page...

Premise -- dude tries really hard to do really bad on the exam, ends up by accident getting 2 questions right, and scores a 400 on the exam.

"This experiment grew on me as time passed by, and now I am thinking of other
funny angles, like asking Princeton Review or Kaplan if they would be interested
in being able to make the claim that a person who participated in their SAT
preparation course improved his test score by 1200 points!"
--------
• #### Re:Best line (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:33AM (#5924851)
My guess is he got two "right" because those questions got thrown out and therefore everyone was marked correct on them.
• #### Lowest REAL SAT score? (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:13AM (#5924787) Journal
I would like to see what the real, honestly trying, low score is. I bet that nobody has all that low of a score...
• #### Re:Lowest REAL SAT score? (Score:2)

I guess if the person can't speak English, then s/he would be hooped.
• #### Re:Lowest REAL SAT score? (Score:3, Funny)

Mmmm...ask football recruiters for big schools like Miami and Ohio. I bet they could tell you. I bet you would be horrified.
• #### So... (Score:2)

...getting a low score on your SAT means you're stupid*, unless you want to score low, in which cause a low score is nerdy... it makes a weid kind of sense.

Disclaimer: We don't have SATs in Norway. However, we do run all our raw military recruits (and remeber we have a military system based on conscriptions) thru a simular sets of tests which includes mathskills, skills in norwegian, skills in english, logicskills and a light touch at the physical sciences. Never heard of anyone willingly aiming for a ba

• #### Re:So... (Score:2)

I'm somewhat of a military buff myself. I met a Norwegian once, and I knew that they all serve in the military unless they're cowards. I asked him in a friendly, inquisitive manner, "So, what kind of infantry weapon does Norway use?" "A gun," he replied. Undeterred, I asked, "What kind of APC did you serve in?" He said, "A green one."

No wonder the USA gave up on the conscript army concept after the Vietnam experience.

• #### Re:So... (Score:2)

Never heard of anyone willingly aiming for a bad score, as that would land them in a shitty job...

Could they willingly retake the test later? In this case the man is in his thirties and had already taken his GRE (after college graduation, where SATs are generally taken in high school). I don't think anybody even looks at SATs after you have a degree, especially a Masters, so it was no-risk folly for him while surrounded by people to whom it really mattered for college admission. You can retake the SAT as
• #### more (Score:4, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:14AM (#5924790)
more people do this,the percentile score of the real test takers will increase.
• #### I 'll do better! (Score:2)

He got two right! Hell, That gives all a chance to do two worse then him! Let's git ceackin'!
• #### Makes me feel good. (Score:2)

Makes me feel good about my 1190, and not doing anything with my life up to this point.
• #### Re:Makes me feel good. (Score:2, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward
I also got 1190 on my SAT. I thought it was a pretty terrible score. Oddly enough, I scored better on verbal (640) than I did on math (550). Abnormal for a self-proclaimed geek, you would think. I didn't think I could even get into a state school with a score like that.

My friend goes to UC Santa Cruz and is always trying to convince me to quit my job and go to school. I'm reluctant, and a little discouraged. Do I even have a chance at getting accepted, considering my fairly crappy SAT score and mediocre

• #### Re:Makes me feel good. (Score:2)

Heh, I had about the same ratio of verbal to math, you are actually much better off with 4 years of experience. Just finish up a degree at night, do it in something unrelated to IT like basketweaving, criminal justice, firefighting, just in case you end up loathing IT. Hey, it could happen, just don't pigeonhole yourself into IT. I am, however, not a good fountain of advice, as I only *wish* I had a job in IT, but no one will hire me. Oh well. One Day.
• #### 1250 is a 132 IQ? (Score:4, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:17AM (#5924799)
I must be very smarty with my 1350. A friggin jeenius. 100 points more than 1250, so 132 + 100 = 232 IQ. Very jeeniousy of me.
• #### Re:1250 is a 132 IQ? (Score:2)

I imagine a good IQ test measures your ability to learn and apply common knowledge.

SAT's, are they something people study and prepare for? For me, an IQ measures a person's intelligence best when they don't prepare for it - and it tests generic things which are based as little as possible on culture (unless examining general knowledge).
• #### I do this all the time: (Score:2, Insightful)

Its the Scotty syndrome: It will take a long time, I dont know enough about it! I will try hard to get it done in a week. Then you get it done in 3 days, and everyone loves you. Look stupid, be smart.
• #### What does it measure though? (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:24AM (#5924823)
Scoring well on the SAT, or any other standardized test does little more than to prove that you can do well on standardized tests.

I'm in college now, and did relatively well on my SAT, but I'm a slacker... especially when it comes to academics. Just a plain lazy bastard.

The thing is that I had alot of friends who didn't do so well on the SAT, but they got into their undergrad school and worked their butt off and are now on their way to Med school. Now granted, in order to get into a good one, you still have to go through a nasty little M-CAT, something I know nothing about.

It seems though that something like the SAT shows little more than how you prepare for a very specific test and how you perform on a very specific day. What it shows to a lesser degree is your level of persistence, self discipline and perhaps most notably, your common sense. I have alot of friends who are going to be sucessful at what they do someday, but just don't do well sitting in a room answering multiple choice questions for three hours.

Perhaps this is why its a blessing that your standardized test scores are not the only critieria for admitance into higher learning institutions.
• #### My own minirant (Score:4, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:58AM (#5924907) Journal
I think the thing that pisses me off the most is the amount of preparation people can do for the tests. I mean, if these tests are supposed to measure (whatever they think it measures).. is it really that accurate when taking a Kaplan course guarantees to improve your score by 300 points? (I'm making up numbers, sorry, but you get the point) So far, I've seen it good for 3 things.

1. The tutors who get the money for test preps
2. Annoying egos (the same people who "failed" a test because they got a 96% and not a 99%)
3. Distinguishing people with high gpas without any other significant experience in h.s.

I think that was one of the things I hated most about high school.
• #### MCAT vs SAT vs ACT (Score:3, Interesting)

> Now granted, in order to get into a good (medical school), you still have to go through a nasty little M-CAT, something I know nothing about.

No, in order to get into any American or Caribbean medical school you need to take the MCAT. Hopkins used to take ACT scores but changed over a few years ago, and a few BS/MD programs will still do that, but most of those only admit high school students for a 6-year ride (Brown, Kansas City-Missouri, etc.; Miami-FL rolls theirs such that FL residents can apply
• #### Re:MCAT vs SAT vs ACT (Score:4, Informative)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:16PM (#5927157) Homepage
On both tests you are tested on what you know instead of your ability to prepare for the specific test.

Whoa, there, cowboy. The ACT & MCAT are achievement tests, designed specifically to test knowledge. Knowledge is still, AFAIK, something you can acquire and retain almost regardless of your IQ.

The SAT and standard IQ tests, OTOH, are aptitude tests, designed to test a person's ability to solve problems and think critically. This is also something that can be learned, but only to an extent. It is not possible to memorize all of the possible questions on an SAT test, while on an ACT test it is. No matter how much preparation you go through, you cannot teach yourself to be a genius.

• #### And they don't even score it correctly (Score:3, Interesting)

I took the SAT in 1968 or 1969. You had to pay for tests in groups of three, there were 5 I wanted, so I threw in Math II just to get my money's worth. There were a bunch of questions I didn't answer, and one I took a wild guess at but remember very well. I asked my math teacher about it the next day, he showed me how to figure it out, and I had guessed wrong. Months later, I was called in to the counselor's office, I had gotten 800 (perfect) on Math II. I laughed and told him no way, he said way, I to
• #### Re:It's been proven. (Score:5, Informative)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @08:37AM (#5925484)
I just read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses the fact that the correlation between SAT scores and college GPA is about 10%.
• #### This guy is awesome! (Score:4, Funny)

<fletch@NOSpam.fletchtronics.net> on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:26AM (#5924827)
I started to think of how radically different my mental state was from that of the high school students in the same room, taking the same test. An earlier show of hands indicated that most of the students were taking the SAT for the first time. So, I think it's very likely there were some people in the room who were terrified. For better or for worse they were confronting destiny. Meanwhile, I was confronting silliness. The difference in perspective seemed so extreme that there were moments when I shook with desperately suppressed laughter.

Damn this is funny. It makes me want to go and take the test just for the hell of it. I never actually took it because I changed high-schools and the timing was weird. I rocked that ACT test though and I was sweating it. Anyway, the point is now that I'm older, calmer and have more practical knowledge, I could probably rock that test hard and get into Yale. Oh yeah I forgot, Yale is a Bush party school.

• #### Re:This guy is awesome! (Score:3, Insightful)

I find it very difficult not to laugh in exams at the best of times. Most of our exams are 2 hours long, and most take exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes and 1 second for me to complete. The extra second is important, because you are not allowed to leave the exam room during the last 30 minutes.

Rather than have a spare half hour at the end, I usually take regular 5 minute breaks during the exam and let my mind wander (this also improves my score, since it reduces stress, which inhibits brain function). Dur

• #### MCAS vs SAT (Score:5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:41AM (#5924868)
On standardized testing being a joke: According to the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for those of you outside of the state, a test that aims to determine graduation eligibility and falls...short.) I'm supposed to be *barely* average in math and below standard in english. SAT I Verbal : 800 (99%) SAT I Math : 790 (99%) SAT II Lit. : 770 (97%) SAT II Math IIC: 760 (81%) SAT II Math IC : 730 (93%) Currently, a rather frightening percentage of Mass. high school students are being denied their diplomas because of MCAS scores...and I picked up a total of some $100,000 per year in academic scholarships from six different colleges...and I'm currently getting$26,000/year from the one I chose to attend. The class one year before me had to pass the MCAS in order to graduate. Were it not for that one year...I might still be a high school senior. Standardized tests are a joke...and aren't really that funny.
• #### MCAS is f*cked up (Score:3, Interesting)

The MCAS shouldnt even exist. They only create these things to keep poor people from going to college.

The MCAS is setup so that if you fail it, you can NEVER go to college, you can NEVER get a diploma, and all you get is some stupid certificate.

Alot of kids who went to shitty schools have to either become very mature at a young age and take matters into their own hands and teach themselves, or they are going to fail that test and never go to college.

Seems like class Warfare to me.

I'm from MA as well AC,
• #### Well.. (Score:2)

I did ok with my 1330, although had I taken the test more than once, I'd have probably ended up with the magic number of 1400 or higher.

To those who don't know much about the SAT, they take the highest score for the math and the highest score for the verbal section from all the tests you take (there's no limit I'm aware of), and they're added together for your total score. So if I score a 600/700 on my math and verbal respectively on my first test, and then a 700/600 on my math and verbal respectively on t
• #### But why?? (Score:2)

Doesn't this guy have anything better to do with his time? Taking a test ranks right up with going to the dentist. It sucks and is the most boring thing I can think of that I do not look forward to doing.

Also I am supprised they let an adult out of highschool take it. I finished my senior year in Canada so I did not take the SAT. I decided back in the states on my junior year to take it a year later so I can have a higher score.

Since I am in community college now I might as well take it again since I can
• #### Essay questions on the SAT (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:54AM (#5924892) Homepage Journal
Does anyone else find the idea of essay questions on the SAT at least, idiotic?

I mean, without a keyboard and a spellchecker I'm nothing! My handwriting is absolutely terrible. But none of that matters in collage, since papers will be turned in after being typed on a computer. And even if a grader isn't going to look at those things specifically, they'll still be affected by them, as well as whether or not they agree with the essay. Not to mention the fact that it's going to be insanely expensive to grade these things. They'll need about 1,500 graders each grading 1,500 papers. Can you imagine grading that many boring essays about random subjects? My brain would just go numb. The only fair way to do it would be to have each essay graded by a diverse group of graders, and then average the score. But that would cost even more per test. Or perhaps they could figure out some way to grade essays by a computer. Teach a neural net the properties of a good essay and see what it comes up with.

Or they could just not do it...
• #### Re:Essay questions on the SAT (Score:5, Insightful)

<adrian&symphonious,net> on Saturday May 10, 2003 @07:49AM (#5925350) Homepage Journal
And even if a grader isn't going to look at those things specifically, they?ll still be affected by them, as well as whether or not they agree with the essay. Not to mention the fact that it's going to be insanely expensive to grade these things. They'll need about 1,500 graders each grading 1,500 papers.

Actually, the marking of essays is a problem that's been pretty comprehensively solved here in sunny Queensland Australia. The trick to it is to have a statistician on hand. Then you take a whole bunch of markers from all around the state and they come together to mark the essays. You give them a whole bunch of training on how to mark the essays, what they should be looking for etc. Each essay is then independently marked twice (ie: two markers read and grade it without knowing anything about what the other marker thought of the paper). Then the results are collated and handed to the statistician who looks for any grades that don't match up - one of the markers isn't marking properly. Which one is easy to pick because during the day each marker will have marked several essays and the pairs of markers always change, so you just look for any marker that shows up in more than one grade mismatch and you have your problem case.

Once you've found the problem cases for the day you prioritise them and take out the most significant problem markers for more training (there's not enough money to retrain them all). If a marker is picked up as a problem case twice they're sent home and won't participate in any further marking (usually for quite a few years, teachers around here have long memories...).

So now we have a system that keeps markers consistent, what do you do with the grades that were mismatched by markers? You have the essay graded by a third person who is very experienced in the marking process and see what they think. If they have trouble deciding they can refer it to a fourth person and so on.

So in short, the way to mark essays reliably and fairly, lots of training, lots of money, and a damn good statistician (yes only one statistician for the entire state of Queensland).

Also note that the test we use (the Queensland Core Skills test or QCS) is regarded as one of the best tests in the world, takes about 2 years to write (they're already working on the 2005 test) and is sold off to other countries like Japan. You should also note that your mark on the QCS test does not affect your tertiary entrace score, rather the results of the QCS test are groups in various ways and use to scale your marks for the rest of your senior year to accomodate for different difficulties of subjects (Physics vs Chemistry vs English vs Art vs Typing etc) as well as differences in marking between schools and a whole host of other things, but never an individual basis. In other words, it takes probability into account which suggests that some students will perform below their normal standard and others will perform above their normal standard since the test is held over only two days (a small sample of the students actual work thus leading to high variance).

The whole process is actually very carefully and very well designed so you're of the belief that tests don't judge personal ability, you should do some research on this process because it's as good an example of test usage you're likely to find. The biggest downside is that because of it's complexity (or particuarly because it's different to the normal way people think about tests) most students don't actually understand the process and really panic about their QCS test results.

• #### Re:Essay questions on the SAT (Score:3, Interesting)

Not in the least. It's much more difficult to write a good essay then pick one of five answers.

AP (Advanced Placement) exams have a free response section on all tests. For the math APs the free response is pretty objective - you get a point for this setup, a point for that answer, or a point for this explanation, but all of that is still graded by hand. Most other exams, at least those in English, have three essays that make up more than half of the total score.

For example, in both the US and European
• #### it's easy, just double bubble! (Score:4, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:59AM (#5924911)
dude, if you fill in 2 bubbles you get the question wrong, all he had to do was scribble in heavy black down the whole page and he'd be done in 20 seconds
• #### My experience... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @04:11AM (#5924943)
When taking the PSAT during my sophomore year in high school, I decided that the school didn't need to know my ethnic origin, whether the information was gathered for statistican purposes only or not. The choices were typical (White/Caucasian, Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, etc...), and there was a seventh blank marked "Other", suggesting anyone of any ethnicity not listed to list their brand name. I thought I did a very noble thing for a white boy in urban central Georgia, and I checked the "Other" box and wrote in, "I'm human. What does it matter?"

The test proctor, a Geometry teacher, didn't like this very much and sent me to the principal's office. I gladly took my test answer sheet up to the principal's office and told them the story I wrote here. The principal took the answer sheet and showed it to a couple of people around the office, presumably to get second and third (reinforcing) opinions, and then returned the test sheet to me and told me to get back to class, finish the test, "and if she has any further problem with this, send her to me."

My first reaction was, whoa, "send her to you"?! I don't have that authority. She made me understand that I had done nothing wrong and should definitely not be punished for it. (To be honest, I do not remember if my main purpose was to be a smartass or to promote social colorblind-ness, but it shouldn't matter if anyone reads it properly.)

Anyway, the moral of this story is: if you let them get used to you simply falling into line and always doing the expected thing, you get locked into it. On the other hand, if you let them know you're just less than predictable, and perhaps even a bit crazy or eccentric, then you can get away with much more and even get them to think harder about things. I succeeded that day, and my ego swelled from that of a skinny, nerdy white boy into that of a taller, more confident, skinny, nerdy white boy. :-)

p.s.-- my favorite line from Colin Fahey's site:

So, in this latest experience, when I worked very hard to determine the correct answer for each question, and then proceeded to pick the exact WRONG answer (in fact, the most RIDICULOUS answer), I had a very strong emotional reaction. For a while I worried that this new peculiar feeling of freedom was in fact insanity; I was finally making the transition to madness.
Yeah, I feel that ALL the time. Marching to the beat of a different drum is liberating, but self-liberation is viewed as insanity until it catches on...
• #### Re:My experience... (Score:5, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2003 @05:06AM (#5925063)
It would be great if someone would take the test in 2005, and answer the essay question:

"I refuse to answer the essay portion of this test on the grounds that any answer I give will be judged subjectively and any grade not given by a machine is arbitrary. As proof I submit that if I were to grade my answer to this question, I would give myself full credit."
• #### Re:My experience... (Score:5, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @07:36AM (#5925315) Homepage
As proof I submit that if I were to grade my answer to this question, I would give myself full credit.

Actually that argument probably fails. I think there will probably be precise and detailed list of criteria for scoring the essay. Yes, it will be partially subjective, but not entirely arbitrary. Giving yourself full credit for that essay would probably be a violation of the rules.

-
• #### Urban legends (Score:3, Interesting)

I studied Philosophy at Cambridge University, and the last exam you took every year was called "Essay". You were expected to pontificate for three hours on one of a number of topics. So, the question paper would be:

1) Justice
2) Truth ...
20) Happiness

Generally it was a great opportunity to blather on. Anyway, when I arrived there was this great fuss. Apparently, in the previous year one of the questions had been simply "Courage", to which one student had written "This is." The story - true or not - is that
• #### I feel sorry ... (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @04:20AM (#5924969)
... for the guys either side of Colin in the examination room ... glancing across ...
"He answered 'D' on Question 26? But, I'm sure it's 'B'! Shit ... uhm, maybe it IS 'D'. *rubs out, ticks 'D'*. WHAT? 'A' for Q27?!? SHIT SHIT SHIT! *rubs out*"
Disclaimer: Don't cheat on tests, cheating is bad, mmmmkay?
• #### SAT verbal == word memorization (Score:3, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @04:41AM (#5925012) Homepage
I did my undergraduate education in India, where we didn't have the SAT -- but I did take the GRE for graduate study in the USA, and I understand the format of the GRE is like that of the SAT, just harder and with a extra "analytic" section.

The SAT verbal section is for the most part, a test of vocabulary word memorization. In India, we aspiring graduate students spent marathon sessions memorizing vocabulary words that we never used again after taking the test. It was quite a joke, really. It favors those with the wherewithal to engage in this mindless brain-stuffing, and disadvantages those who do have the skills to read critically and find meaning, but don't memorize all those esoteric (= a good example itself!) words.

While the math section seems relevant, the verbal section needs much overhaul to not rely so much on pure memorization.
• #### SAT verbal != word memorization (Score:3, Interesting)

In India, we aspiring graduate students spent marathon sessions memorizing vocabulary words that we never used again after taking the test. It was quite a joke, really. It favors those with the wherewithal to engage in this mindless brain-stuffing, and disadvantages those who do have the skills to read critically and find meaning, but don't memorize all those esoteric (= a good example itself!) words.

The next time you speak about Indians, do a favour, don't generalise, okay?

I'm an Indian, and five year

• #### I liked this bit... (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @06:04AM (#5925158)
near the bottom of the page there is an overexposed photo of the test taker with this caption:

FIGURE: "Could my future get any brighter?!"
• #### Colin is an interesting fellow.... (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @06:22AM (#5925189) Homepage Journal
I worked with this guy last year. He liked to work on all the tangential problems on our project... things like how to integrate Samba protocol with our proprietary API... fun stuff with actual real results...

He went on hiatus and never really came back. I heard about this particular stunt this morning from a coworker, best ten minutes of the day...

My thoughts were that this would be fun to gamble on... say put together pools or spread objectives for various test takers and bet money on how close they will come to their goals. Say you've got a guy who says he can get the absolute average... well you bet on him getting within 20 points or you say noway and take the smaller gain, whatever.. gambling on people's ability to read the test and perform how ever they want to sounds quite interesting to me...

• #### Offtopic advice (Score:5, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @06:55AM (#5925249)
Young SAT takers...the only advice I have to give concerning this test is take it over and over and over and over. Dot it so much that you memorize the spoken instructions. Take the PSATs as often as you can. Then take the SAT as often as your budget will let you.

I went to a magnet high school that seemed to be little more than a college-entry factory and we prepped for the SAT from the first day of my freshman year. The more familiar you become with it, the better you'll be at it.

Also, from what I understand, your score is variable on how everyone else did as well (kind of like a curve in a class of many thousands). So depending on when you take it, your score could go up. My 4 PSAT/SAT scores were: 1240, 1260, 1340, 1420. Screw people who say you can't jump up like that - just keep taking the thing and you have a good chance of at least marginally increasing your score.

Oh, and get there on time too. Flying around town at 90mph to go back and get your ticket was^H^H^His not fun.
• #### Which schools? (Score:5, Interesting)

<a987@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> on Saturday May 10, 2003 @07:40AM (#5925334) Journal
I'd love to know what schools have sent him a prospectus on attending. Who are the bottom feeders?
• #### Closed Universe (Score:5, Interesting)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @08:21AM (#5925422)
I thought this was one of the better comments in the article:
It is possible that people with the same subjective influences and implicit assumptions do well in college, because college faculty belong to the same dominant species of irrationality. So, the value of the verbal section of the SAT as a predictor of performance in college might be quite high. However, the side-effect of optimizing a test to better predict success in college is that truly objective minds might be punished for not keeping up with the latest delusions.
I've always felt that the U.S. education system "taught to itself," meaning that much of what you learned in school was directly relevant to school, but nowhere else. It's like the schools inhabit their own closed universe.

My 13 year-old son spends an inordinate amount of time in school studying and practicing for a thing called a TAKS test here in Texas. You have to pass it or you don't graduate to the next grade (that's the intention, anyway). What skill, exactly, is he learning? As far as I can tell, the skill is "how to take the TAKS test" -- something very useful in the post-school world, I'm sure.

Very frustrating, at times.

• #### Re:Closed Universe (Score:5, Insightful)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @01:55PM (#5926777)
I'm upset because I went through twelve years of school and never learned:

1. Office/Workplace Etiquette.
2. Customer Service Skills.
3. How Banking Works.
4. How to build Good Credit.
5. How to PAY A BILL.
6. Landlord/tenant rights.
7. How a car works (basic theory).
8. How to budget monthly.
9. How Insurance works/how to use insurance.
10.So much more.
• #### Oh god (Score:5, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @09:59AM (#5925779)
Great. An excuse for thousands of nerds to brag about their SAT scores :)
• #### My Crazy SAT Story (Score:3, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @10:15AM (#5925837) Homepage
After a night of excess myself and four friends realized we had our SAT's that morning at 8:00am (it was about 5 or 6 when we realized this). I purchased a sixpack of Josta Cola (mmm... Josta, the real oldschool geek drink) and we headed off for the testing.

I had to wake one friend up twice during the testing, and he still was staggering during breaks, his final score: 1580. Another friend landed into what I would consider the lowest score of all time with a 580 COMBINED! I managed to do OK with a 1260.

The moral of the story, do a number of odd substances, don't sleep, do not study, and get a few naps in DURING the testing and you too can score like a true Ivy Leaguer. =)
• #### Re:My Crazy SAT Story (Score:4, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @04:37PM (#5927574)
After a night of excess myself and four friends realized we had our SAT's that morning at 8:00am
I guess you and your friend's scored poorly on the verbal test's.
• #### Measure of Wealth (Score:3, Informative)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @01:15PM (#5926587)
As someone who's tutored plenty of students in SAT's, I can say this: The SAT's may gauge intelligence, problem-solving ability, and test-taking skills, but just as much, if not moreso, it tests that student's resources. I've had students who are extremely bright, but due to their poverty, just don't have the resources to compete with students who have the resources of, say, a George W. Bush. Their public schooling is atrocious, they don't have the money for lots of tutoring and several retests, they don't have access to information like free tutoring, free practice tests, and resources online. The fact that so many people will take the SAT's as a cut and dry measure of one's smarts is disturbing to say the least. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the education is dependent on the child's wealth as well.
• #### sure 400 seems low (Score:4, Funny)

on Saturday May 10, 2003 @03:55PM (#5927333) Homepage Journal
but it rounds up to like 540 canadian.

back in middle school, I had a teacher who would give lots of extra credit questions on tests, but would subtract points if you got the extra credit wrong. I ended up with a -120 on a test. F for the semester too, but middle school doesnt matter.

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