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SAT: The Central Exam

Seniors recently took the SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, an assessment paid for by the School District of Philadelphia. Juniors and underclassmen will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, on October 30th, also with the help of the school. Other than being a three-hour long test, the SAT is a major point of concern for high school students across the country and even worldwide. Preparation for the exam has become a business since the SAT gained momentum in the college application process, however, lately some colleges are straying away from the SAT requirement. Still, this exam is widely used as an indication for a student’s preparedness for college and life beyond. But what really is the SAT?

Composed of math and “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing” sections, the timed SAT tests one’s stamina and ability to learn the test outside of the classroom. Although the exam aims to encapsulate everything “from childhood to now,” the math section is highly concentrated in algebra and geometry while the reading section tests analysis of a text and abstract ideas and grammar. The test ranges from 400-1600, the reading and math sections each worth 800 points, however, the national average as of 2019 is 1059. There is also no penalty for wrong answers, which is why students are encouraged to make an educated guess if they do not know the answer.

SAT Subjects Tests, or SAT II tests are also offered and are highly recommended for some colleges. These exams test on specific subjects that correlate greatly with the AP courses. These tests allow you to show colleges that you excel in a specific area, ranging from Spanish to Physics. Unlike the SAT, the subject tests have a maximum score of 800 per test and have a small penalty for each question wrong, however, one does not have to answer all questions to receive a perfect score. 

Many students wonder what their score means and what a good score is. However, there is no definition of a ‘good score.’ Nationally, a score of 1100 would place you in the 58th percentile, while a score of 1500 would place you in the 98th percentile, meaning out of 100 students, you would have a higher score than 98 individuals. A ‘good score’ depends on which school you are aiming for. Schools that require the SAT usually display a range of scores, that is, a minimum score on the range represents the 25th percentile, or below average, while the higher end of the range indicates the 75th percentile, or above average, of all students who were accepted to the institution the previous year.

However, the SAT is not the only determining factor in the college application process. In fact, a lower score does not mean rejection and a better score does not guarantee acceptance. The college application takes into consideration extracurriculars, course load, grades, teacher recommendations, essays, and more. “The good news is,” says Sue Bilsky, a counselor with the JEVS program, “that even if a student’s SAT score is slightly lower than a particular college’s average SAT score, good grades at a top school like Central can help compensate.”

 The School District of Philadelphia helps students tremendously in not only providing fee waivers for those that qualify but by also making the tests readily available each year for its students. Although SAT tests are offered throughout the year and can cost up to $47.50, or $64.50 with the essay, the SAT was free for all 279 on October 16th and the PSAT is free for sophomores and freshmen and a small fee is required for juniors. Central also hosts a free SAT-prep class through a program called JEVS that equips students with their own College Board prep books and classes to learn testing techniques and review problems. Sue Bilsky, a counselor with the program, meets with Central students frequently to help with the college admissions process. She states, “most Central students have rigorous schedules so finding time to study for the SAT can be a challenge. It can help to relieve the stress if students have access to some type of tutoring for the SAT. Although Central students are strong academically in their school work, success on the SAT requires an entirely different skill set. Students who excel in the classroom may struggle with standardized tests. This results in students having to learn to recognize patterns in the type of questions that appear on the SAT and learn strategies on how to approach the test. They may also have to learn new content in Math or review subjects they may have taken two years ago.”

Although the SAT and studying for it may appear to be a daunting burden, this assessment is just part of the exciting college admissions process. The exam allows students to display their knowledge and prove they are ready for life beyond Central, a successful future.


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Jessica Lvov (279)


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