Frustrated by the SAT essay question this past weekend? On the most recent SAT exam, there was an essay prompt that has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. The SAT essay question related to reality television: “These shows depict ordinary people competing in everything from singing and dancing to losing weight, or just living their everyday lives.” The exam also contained an assertion: “Most people believe that the reality these shows portray is authentic, but they are being misled…How authentic can these shows be when producers design challenges for the participants and then editors alter filmed scenes?”
Many students who took the exam were upset by the prompt because they don’t watch reality TV and so they believed that they were at an inherent disadvantage. When some kids were busy watching The Situation and Snookie, these students were busy reading Thoreau and Emerson. Why should they be penalized for their intellectual curiosity? Why should these students come away from the SAT wishing they had been watching MTV instead of reading Walden?
In The College Board’s defense, Angela Garcia, executive director of the SAT program, said, “[This] was intended to be relevant and to engage students, and had gone through extensive pre-testing with students and teachers. It’s really about pop culture as a reference point that they would certainly have an opinion on.” We happen to agree with Ms. Garcia. And, frankly, it shouldn’t matter that the question concerned reality television. You see, at Ivy Coach, our tutors prep students in such a way that it won’t matter what the essay prompt reads. These test-takers did not have to watch hours worth of reality television in order to succeed on this assignment. In fact, they could have even geared their answer towards what they do know. For instance, if they indeed had read a lot of Henry David Thoreau, they could have chosen to write about how Thoreau believed news to be “clutter” and, as such, reality TV is the worst kind of clutter. SAT essay prompts can and should be prepared in advance (in your mind), before you even see the question. Ivy Coach’s exceptional SAT tutors help students do just that.
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