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MIT to no longer consider SAT subject tests in admissions decisions (mitadmissions.org)
426 points by s3r3nity 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 452 comments





Anybody cheering the exclusion of some test or other, because it was a pain to study for in high school, is simply not noticing the frog-boiling secondary effects going on. Every bit of emphasis taken out of objective results mean more advantage for smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected people.

Yes, some misguided parents waste thousands of dollars on SAT courses. But students can also prep using the $20 official book, which is what I did, and what I still regard as the best option. Even if money helps incrementally for tests, it helps for everything else even more. International volunteer work? An inspiring (i.e. college counselor approved) essay? Recommendation letters from authoritative people? Anything that requires equipment, like computer labs or robotics? It all costs money -- and in many cases literally measures nothing besides how much money you have.


But that's entirely the point. The people bitching about how the SAT isn't fair aren't smart poor people who are being beaten out by upper middle class losers, but rather upper middle class losers being beaten out by smart poor people. They tell themselves that the test isn't fair, but a part of them knows that they could never get into the 1500's even with all the prep in the world, so they try to get the admissions changed to a more bullshit-centric approach that they know favors them. And they say they are doing it to help the poor and disadvantaged to give themselves moral cover.

I think this is true about the SAT but the subject tests are kind of niche and I assume a lot of poor people actually don't know about them. If you're not in an environment where a lot of people are applying to top schools, it's unlikely to be something you are familiar with

That’s a good point I hadn’t considered, they are fairly niche

Top schools are more than fairly niche, especialy at the very top of the very top like MIT, which is extremeley niche.

Source: I was a poor kid who got into UC Berkeley based largely on my SAT II scores.

Any poor kid seriously considering applying to MIT or Cal is high information enough to be aware SAT IIs exist.

Do ya'll understand how patronizing and insulting this bigotry of low expectations is to brilliant trailer park trash kids like 1990s me?

PS I'm rich and early retired now thanks to (Bitcoin and) setting/enforcing high standards for myself, not lowered expectations.

I didn't have $20 to spend on an SAT prep book, so I checked some out from the HS library. It wasn't hard, it simply took initiative.

SAT IIs let applicants pick an area in which they can shine above and beyond the genereic g-weighted diagnostic.

My gifts are largely verbal, so the Writing subject test was my once-in-a-lifetime to demonstrate objective superiority to my peer group, regardless of income and race.


> I was a poor kid who got into UC Berkeley based largely on my SAT II scores.

So did the admissions officer mail you a letter that said “congrats! Based largely on your SAT II scores, you’ve gotten in!”

If not, what enables you to discount the possibility that you still would have gotten in without the subject test?


My SAT IIs were obviously vital to the package presented to the admissions committee because I lacked two key things critical to UC's usual stringent paradigm. One, my GPA was below Cal's 4.0+ standards. Two, I didn't take a single AP test (Dad's attitute towards APs was the same as Driving School: "It was free when I was in HS so I'm not gonna pay for that").

I approached getting into Cal FROM OUT OF STATE like a hacker: telling the system what it wants/expects to hear. That entailed a deep dive on how admissions officers think and weigh applications. Every single trade-off I made in HS was in light of that strategy. Job or heavy extra-curriculars? I'll just be broke and stack trophies. AP Econ/English/Bio or Debate? I'll suffer in Honors/Regulars and stack moar trophies. Dating or academic decathalon? Same. Prom or debate tournament? Ditto.


They do this through elimination if the application lacked the usual extracurricular items on an application due to being poor...

From this point going forward it is no longer a usual extracurricular item. The school that they are applying to has specifically told all applicants that they don’t want to hear about their subject test score. It would be unusual to include it, not to mention blatantly violating application submission instructions, which applicants are expected to carefully follow.

In any case, his name is “cognitive elite.” If he is who he says he is, then he would have find other ways to prove his eliteness/worthiness if subject tests were not being considered for any applicant. He had the initiative to study for that test. If he knew that it would have been a waste of time to study for it, then maybe he would have taken that same time and initiative to do something else to make his application stand out.


>If he is who he says he is, then he would have find other ways to prove his eliteness/worthiness if subject tests were not being considered

No, that's completely wrong and totally incorrect!

The SAT II Writing subject test was the only way for me to make up for lack of AP English, which is basically a prerequisite for the school hosting the world's top English and Rhetoric departments.

>maybe he would have taken that same time and initiative to do something else to make his application stand out.

Nope, I would have simply crossed MIT off the very short list (Stanford, Cal, MIT) of extremely niche institutions fortunate enough to be considered within my purview for eventual attendence.

MIT's anti-meritocratic, clown-world decision to ignore SAT IIs makes me furious. To hell with MIT and their woke, filthy Epstein-tainted staff/faculty/endowment. They are pulling up the class-mobility ladder on kids like me while pretending it's for the sake of social justice.


It just seems to me that MIT has looked at their data and saw that subject test scores are not a key differentiator between students who do well at MIT and students who do not. You’ve already mentioned MIT is niche. Is your alma mater with the top English and Rhetoric departments dropping these tests, or is MIT doing so? If subject test scores are not a differentiator of success at MIT, why should MIT make students go through with them, especially if that time and effort can be put towards doing other things that actually are better indicators? Maybe programming projects, etc, or whatever their case may be. Call it woke but maybe their actual numbers support their decision?

>MIT has looked at their data and saw that subject test scores are not a key differentiator between students who do well at MIT and students who do not.

Objection. Assumes Facts Not In Evidence.

Following the OP link reveals no such analysis, only a statement SAT IIs are being suddenly being ignored because "We believe this decision will improve access for students applying to MIT." That's coded language, 100% typical for their woke, clown-world admissions functionaries.

>maybe their actual numbers support their decision?

Maybe we should be verifying the actual numbers instead of swallowing whatever just-so story MIT plops out to justify the woke thing they wanted to do anyway.

After reviewing other HN articles from MIT admissions, such as “Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” (which includes the blatantly racist gem "A Good Night’s Sleep, A Hearty Breakfast, and Being White"), along with "Black Lives Matter...until they don't", and the Epstein fiasco, it becomes very clear MIT doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.


Let’s go back to the point where he said poor kid. It’s really hard to get those opportunities. Many poor kids have to work through high school or provide unpaid child care for their family, many of those also have to deal with food and/or housing insecurity. It’s extremely difficult to not only have the connections to get in someplace for an internship or a volunteer experience for your scholastic resume but also to be able to get there or have the time outside of work/school/family to do it.

> PS I'm rich and early retired now thanks to (Bitcoin and) setting/enforcing high standards for myself, not lowered expectations.

Awesome!

> My gifts are largely verbal, so the Writing subject test was my once-in-a-lifetime to demonstrate objective superiority to my peer group, regardless of income and race.

Same, though I don't really consider skills like oratory to be a gift; rather I think it's something you simply refine with time and experience.

I was actually the first to score a perfect score (at the time) in my English Placement Exam at the University I ultimately started at, however, my writing legibility is admittedly horrendous and I was docked 2% after I was asked to read it aloud for the inconvenience of the reviewers: yielding a 98%. It was about the Tobacco Industry--I understood this topic well as my childhood best friend's Father was an Exec at Phillip Morris.

But, and I have to ask as I think this follows the Bitcoin meritocracy ethos: wouldn't you have preferred to have your admission be based on your ability to have positively contributed to your field of study rather than some arbitrary score on an exam which, if you were like me had to prep and take several times before you took it serious? And probably purposely forgot 85% of it as soon as you got up and walked out the door?

I mean isn't awesome to see a project where some of the most World renowned Academic Cryptographers (Adam Back) work alongside College dropouts (Peter Todd), and absolute nutters in the best way (Amir Takki) contribute to a project on equal terms and be judged by their skills rather than anything else? Especially when you see how vital its role can be in your financial well being?

That's what I always thought University was going to be, rather than the petty politicking non-sense I saw. Which is acutely seen when trying to get Peer Reviewed Journals to be even approved for review.

I personally have since shunned academia after my experience, I have a BS in Biology and that was enough BS for one life time; but a part of me wonders what I could contribute to my field now that I have experience in Agriculture, Culinary, and (very limited) Aerospace fields as well as a background in Automotive Industry and its Supply Chains.

Side note: I was that guy in class in University setting up study groups among my peers for notes, homework assignments, and lecture recordings because I had to work during school hours and I couldn't attend class nor afford the required texts; so I understand very well what having to over-perform despite not having the supposed 'bare essentials,' is like as my upper division years were during the financial crisis.


>wouldn't you have preferred to have your admission be based on your ability to have positively contributed to...

Uni-bound HS kids don't usually know which field(s) they will study, hence the S.A.T. is a Test for generic Scholastic Aptitude using general intelligence metrics (math+verbal) as a proxy. HS me intended to be a cyberlaw lawyer at Wilson Sonsini but wound up in cogsci, a field HS me wasn't even aware existed! There was NO WAY my admission could have been based on my eventual contributions to cogsci.

Academic achievement was my ticket out of the trailer park so I always took it seriously, starting in middle school when I devoured a book called 999 Words You Need To Know For The SAT. I didn't "purposely forget 85% of it" after the tests, I still know them all and never stopped building on that foundation, serving Master Satoshi well while fighting against the BCashers in the trenches of the Blockchain Wars.

Bitcoin's meritocracy is an extension of the hacker ethos (on the internet no one knows your a dog...etc) and yes, I love it. I idolize Back and adore trollish Todd, and while Amir's cringe black flag left-wing anarchism is tedious it's forgivable given the obvious sincerity.

If your Uni experience was "petty politicking non-sense" SFYL, but that's on you. Should have transferred and done STEM at a different/better institution.

I did 3 years then dropped out for financial reasons. The degree meant nothing to me; the Promethean knowledge base and powerful lifelong social network are what I wanted. But I'll always be an academic at heart.


On top of that exam dumps are much less efficient when it comes to SAT IIs, where questions are much more diverse an subject knowledge is essential. SAT I is the one that is easy to game.

Eh its all easily game-able. The SAT (and ACT) is a joke. So are the subject tests. The only subject test that wasn't laughable are the language ones (since you can't "intuit" spanish as easily as math or physics or chemistry). Its not bad if you are a good test taker (a dumb skill but a useful one) or wealthy. My friends were tutored idiots and did well (2200+ SAT, 700+ subject tests) and i was a good test taker (same scores). Its all garbage

If the SAT were a joke, you wouldn't expect scores to follow a bell curve with only ~0.3% of people getting a perfect score, but they do.

This isn't a good argument, because the SAT (and other tests of the same kind) are normalised to have this property.

The SAT may not be good tests, but that fact has nothing to do with the presence or absence of a normal distribution.


The SATs have a top score, if it were easy to game you'd find many people would clump at the top. That would make it impossible to normalize that distribution into a bell-shape because they're all clustered into the same bucket with no way of spreading them.

OP's point was that the perfect scores remain consistently outside of people's grasp despite the variety of resources available to prep for the exam. I only once managed to hit perfect score and my other best scores were one or two questions off. I had been taking the test since I was 11 (for various extracurricular camps/activities) and prepped multiple times for them. The biggest scores jumps were more closely related with my age and academic achievements than anything else.


That is correct.

So the SATs are (almost certainly) 3-pl (actually 2) IRT models. Essentially, it's a multivariate generalised linear mixed model to estimate both question difficulty and participant ability.

Normally, they'll estimate the abilities on the logistic scale, and use the percentile to back transform to a standard normal.

Most people don't cluster at the top because they are a good proxy for g, which is an imaginary statistical construct that we use to explain differences in school outcomes.

So I had a long digression here about the usefulness of penalties for guessing, but it turns out the SATs don't do that anymore, so wth?

(ETS invented IRT, that's why I'm pretty sure).


A lot of the reason the SATs are able to maintain a spread that lets them normalize the distribution is that they fill the tests with stupid tricks that fool people into wasting time. If you do a ton of prep then you learn to spot these tricks and then a lot of the questions become really easy and you can knock them off quickly.

A poor smart student may have mastery of the material but their score will suffer if they don't know the tricks.


And you can find out about all these tricks for free on Khan Academy or for $20 in a SAT prep book.

Not everyone can afford to sink time into learning SAT tricks.

No, but I think the point is a combination of Chesterton fence and Goodhart's law. The personal statments and the like, by becoming the primary targets, will cease to measure achivement, and instead measure wealth. So instead of changing without a plan, make a plan to replace SAT2 with something less subject to wealth

MIT is removing a test which rewards the wealthy and punishes the poor. That's good. But the other metrics that MIT currently use are more punishing to the poor, and more rewarding to the wealthy.

With the removal of this element, MIT is left relying on personal statements, recommendations, and the like. With those metrics as the targets, the kids of the wealthy will fund their child's various activities for the sake of giving them a better application.


I find this truly baffling. How can it be considered good use of time for someone to sink endless hours of time into learning the ins and outs of some stupid test that is not useful for anything? Just think about the man years of enthusiasm and creativity wasted on learning to score on a test, instead of something truly useful.

I understand why the students do it, I don't understand why anyone would consider it a good system.


There are plenty of kids in the US who can't afford to bring lunch to school, let alone pay $20 for a SAT prep book. Many of these kids don't have a computer or Internet access at home for that matter, so Khan Academy isn't much good to them either. When we talk about rich vs poor kids, there's a HUGE gap that many people don't realize.

Anecdote: When I was younger, I used to take a public bus to a local bookstore and work through the SAT practice books (on separate scrap paper of course).

It sounds like you didn't have to pick up younger siblings at school when you were younger. That's the reality for a lot of poor kids. Raised by a single parent, the older siblings are in charge of looking after the younger ones. The parent often does not get home from work until late (and may have multiple jobs).

I did actually. I was the oldest of three.

I'm not saying the poor aren't disadvantaged. It's just that the disadvantages are more along the lines of attitudes towards education in the first place (along with everything else). There are also fewer people nearby that serve as an "example" on how to learn or get ahead.


I don’t think that gap is huge in terms of internet access - there’s certainly a gap but it’s mostly a function of parents limiting access in my experience.

84% of teens have smartphones in the US. A large percentage of that remaining 16% have access to internet at school, as 98% of schools have broadband internet.


They have public libraries with both computers and books. Access has never been the issue if there is the will.

> The SATs have a top score, if it were easy to game you'd find many people would clump at the top.

I understand and appreciate my school was statistically abnormal but that is exactly what happened. I graduated in a class 334 students and several achieved perfect scores. Perhaps more than a third of the students achieved greater than 1300 and greater than 20% achieved greater than 1400. This is when 1600 was the perfect score.

All these scores indicate is the degree of conditioning imposed upon a student. I know people want these tests to mean something more for personal reasons, but according to all available data this is biased wishful thinking. The research on standardized convergent testing indicates it is not a measure of academic success or potential, but rather an indicator/discriminator of class distinctions due to availability of preparation.

Because I did not come from well groomed pedigree, did not value the subculture of excess vanity, and came from a family that was lower positioned financially I deliberately inverted the goals for a personal social experiment. I wanted to see how close to the bottom I could get and still graduate on time. This was exciting because the risks were greater. If you fail to estimate the conditions correctly you don’t graduate whereas other people get a slightly lower test score or grade point average. Because the goals were different you had plan and weigh the conditions in unexpected ways. Even with all the effort I put in there were still 5 people who graduated with a lower class rank than me.

What impact did that have in later life? I did not get a free ride to an Ivy League school like many of my classmates, enter corporate management immediately out of college, or become a corporate executive within 10 years. I did enter and graduate college. I became a self taught software developer without much challenge and have found very low resistance attaining employment as a senior developer in my full time job. I also became a managing principal in my part time job without as much effort. The greatest tragedy in all this isn’t lost status or earning potential but how boring life has turned out.


If you had a multiple choice quiz with the actual questions hidden you would get a normal distribution in results. Anything where you sum lots of small random effects.

If the test was not measuring anything at all, then you would expect repeat takers to have completely unrelated scores on first and last test.

That's true, I'm just pointing out that the normality of the distribution of the results alone proves nothing.

You're just bragging that you hit the ceiling on those tests.

That doesn't mean tests don't work; if you wanted to, you could have found much harder ones. (That's what I did, out of necessity. They wouldn't have given my app a second look if I hadn't.)


30 years ago, the ACT test changed enough that it was no longer a valid test to use as entry for Mensa. Prior to 1990, an ACT test could be used as evidence for Mensa admission.

So... the ACT wasn't always 'a joke', but doesn't have the same impact that it had decades ago.


A lot of people would argue that Mensa itself is a joke...

That's irrelevant, what matters is that a high IQ society has a vested interest in measuring IQ as a proxy for general intelligence and standardized testing results should reliably correlate to IQ and general intelligence.

But is IQ really a proxy for general intelligence?

Yes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G_factor_(psychometrics)

An individual's performance on one type of cognitive task tends to be comparable to that person's performance on other kinds of cognitive tasks.


It's not impossible that these tests measure something other than general intelligence, that just happens to correlate with social outcomes (like historical, relative familial wealth).

IIRC general intelligence also doesn't simply measure speed of cognition, but also ability to choose what to focus on ("intuition"), which these tests do not measure.


Adoptees have IQs in line with their biological parents, not their adoptive ones. It’s heritable like every other psychological variable I’m aware of.

Speed of cognition is absolutely correlated with IQ but the difference in speed doesn’t cause the differences in results. Both are downstream of being more intelligent.

> Speed of information processing and general intelligence

> One hundred university students were given five tests of speed-of-processing, measuring their speed of encoding, short-term memory scanning, long-term memory retrieval, efficiency of short-term memory storage and processing, and simple and choice reaction time or decision-making speed. They were also given the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale and the Raven Advanced Progression Matrices. A number of multiple regression analyses show that the cognitive processing measures are significantly related to IQ scores. Other analyses indicate that this relationship cannot be attributed to the common content shared by the reaction time and the intelligence tests, nor to the fact that parts of the WAIS are timed. It is concluded that the reaction time tests measure basic cognitive operations which are involved in many forms of intellectual behavior, and that individual differences in intelligence can be attributed, to a moderate extent, to variance in the speed or efficiency with which individuals can execute these operations

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/016028...


There is no evidence connecting IQ to hereditary traits. This has been demonstrably proven false multiple times. What you are arguing is eugenics and that is patently false.

> Substantial genetic influence on cognitive abilities in twins 80 or more years old.

> General and specific cognitive abilities were studied in intact Swedish same-sex twin pairs 80 or more years old for whom neither twin had major cognitive, sensory, or motor impairment. Resemblance for 110 identical twin pairs significantly exceeded resemblance for 130 fraternal same-sex twin pairs for all abilities. Maximum-likelihood model-fitting estimates of heritability were 62 percent for general cognitive ability, 55 percent for verbal ability, 32 percent for spatial ability, 62 percent for speed of processing, and 52 percent for …

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Plomin/publicati...


>Swedish

This is great for Swedish people. The problem is that humanity consists largely of not-Swedish people. Same for most studies of this kind, which are largely concerned with populations that are already genetically closely related; it stands to reason that the differences between people who are closely related will be more attributable to their inborn differences, than the differences between people who are not closely related. They haven't been able to do an interracial, intercultural comparison on this because socioeconomic circumstances are so substantially different between groups (and have been so since the rise of modern empirical research) that it's impossible to set up a decent comparative study.


No, the definition of "eugenics" is the arrangement of human reproduction to maximize desired traits.

The g factor is highly heritable, and countless academic works and studies establish it as such, well beyond any reasonable doubt.


So if intelligence is inherited, then children of geniuses should be uber-geniuses. And if intelligence is a desired trait, then people can breed for that. And that's eugenics, so I believe you're agreeing with me.

Or intelligence is correlated with familial wealth because it is hereditary and smarter people tend to end up in more complex cognitively demanding professions which tend to pay more.

Maybe? The confounding factors are many. How to account for war (which often accrues wealth to the most brutal among the reasonably intelligent), disease (where selection is based on behavior, e.g., adherence to cultural norms, not necessarily intelligence), disparities in wealth across geography and culture (relative shifts in the normal distribution of IQ across demographics are reflected exactly in measures of wealth)? Let alone that procreation necessarily requires the joining of individuals who might have disparities in wealth, or intelligence, or both.

I tend to err on the side of caution with this one.


Yes, and it's the best proxy we have.

This is more of a joke story, but a few years ago a friend of mine who is neither ambitious nor succesful surprisingly scored 165-170 on their test. When they offered him a membership and told him the membership fee, his reaction was - Alright, but as I am in the top 5% of your members - should not you be paying me to hang out with you? :D :D :D

I always tell people this who want "only high IQ" people to run society.

"Oh, you want the people at Mensa to run your society?"


Well to be fair, those are the subset of high IQ people who have the time/desire to join a club about having a high IQ. Kind of an adverse selection bias

The overwhelming majority of the high IQ are not Mensa members. They are academics, doctors, lawyers, successful businesspeople, the kinds of people for whom it is more common in their friends group to have a Master’s degree than to be a high school dropout.

Some people consider a person with a Master's degree to be a dropout. (yes, I know, not necessarily...)

Those people are called academics. The kinds of Master’s degrees that are rent seeking credentialism, MBAs, MSWs, M.Ed.s are far more common than consolation prizes for those who didn’t get their Ph.D.

Perhaps, but the context I heard it in was self-deprecating from someone working in industry, relative to engineers with PhDs.

Alternatively it could be objection to numerous examples of somewhat arbitrary standardised testing which takes over student education to the exclusion of pretty much anything else, limiting a lot of the creativity and enjoyment students might otherwise take part it.

But that's just my cynical educator's view.


This is only for subject tests. You still have to submit regular sat scores

As someone who went to a boarding school on scholarhsip after moving from a bad public highschool and couldn't afford the $1600 SAT prep classes that preprogrammed in solvers in your calculator, I agree with you in general and deeply resonate with this argument.

However, my initial thought was that MIT maybe has so many perfect scores it's useful at this point and not really a differentiating factor.

For example they can afford to have a perfect 1:1 ratio of men to women for a tech school and I don't think they lower their standards for that.

On the contrary, I went to a highly ranked engineering school of the same limitations (limited other genres of degrees) and it was 30% females overall roughly, but actually in general it was more like 6%-8% females in the actual engineering degrees.

I worked in the admissions office one summer and was hard pressed to find a B on any Q4 report cards which was one of my summer tasks to ensure no early admission students entirely flunked out. I got to see other things like scores and in general I have to say even at a lesser well ranked school, and reading the averages of every incoming class, my notion is not that there is a difference between the scores of smart hard working lower middle class vs the upper rich as much as there is an over emphasis on the exam as a whole.

I agree objective results are very important, and I don't have an answer for a way to calibrate across schools. I think AP exam scores are better indicators but not all schools have AB or IB classes, etc.

It is really at the end of the day like most things about your commitment and ability to get something done regardless of how tangential you think it is to your core goals or study. In real life it is the same way there are lots of silly things people have to do all the time to get where they want to be and the weeding out is those who don't stop trying vs those who find a comfortable spot and stay there and blame everyone else for not having the right priorities.

Regardless, I still fill like even amongst high ranking SAT scorers, students are good at acing them now. My theory though I'm not confident is true is that studying for them has been systemized so much that it is actually difficult for MIT to tell above a certain threshold of score what the bell curve is.

This is all with the exception we need to realize that the SAT is not objective or perfect (the top comment this one is in response to) it was only less than five yrs ago they pulled sailing terminology from the reading and vocabulary portions after having to admit children growing up in the Bronx indeed might not have casually sailed not had sailing related literature in their curriculums, making this a bit unreasonable even for "guessing from context".


>sailing terminology

I've never been sailing but had no problem with the terminology because I read books. Books reflecting our civilization's Greco-Roman and Anglo-American historical ties to seafaring.

It's a form of cultural genocide to foment linguistic amnesia regarding the source domain for so many metaphors and narratives.

Nice use of "the Bronx" as a dog whistle for 'muh poor helpless minority yoof chilldrunz'. Guess what, smart kids of any color can read Treasure Island. Even in the Bronx, you can check out a copy of Moby Dick and 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. Even in landlocked Iowa, HS classes read Homer's Oddesy and Kon-Tiki.

Your unreasonable, emotional bleating about how we all need to lower our expectaions of non-sailing children is insulting to those of use who bothered to learn everything we could in spite of divorce, poverty, etc. and came out ahead.

Your unkind assumptions are full of holes and don't hold water; they are not seaworthy and should be scuttled forthwith.

The idea one can only learn about nautical terminology by literally being on the water is asinine and untrue. If you can't learn sailing terminology except by acutally sailing, you lack the capacity for abstract thought required for scholastic aptitude.

Removing sailing terminology is a way to subsidize illiteracy and pretend non-sailing kids are so stupid they need to be coddled with softened expectations.


That’s nuts, I got a 1590 on my second try with a calculator that turned out to be missing batteries, the day after going to a friends house and drinking with my only prep being reading a few paragraphs from some big book.

I had a lackluster performance on the new writing section the first time around or I wouldn’t have spent any time upping the original 1520 or whatever.

The point is to brag a little yes because I really never get to tell that story now that I’m 30.

The point is that rewarding me for skipping class to smoke weed with my friends because I aced some test turned out to produce a university student who spent a lot of time partying.

I’ve changed a lot since then, and I do also have the blessing of being a rather natural and amiable person to talk too, but there was a long time where by sheer luck I was getting glided along because I ace tests like those and AP tests, but it certainly not indicative of someone who was going to spend a lot of time producing some great research paper in college or anything.

So I always thought it was kind of bullshit and I nailed the shit out of that test.

Probably just an imperfect science all in all. Much like hiring tech workers.

Edit: small grammatical errors, on a phone


I also had excellent SAT scores (I didn't bother to retake them, but perhaps I should've).

I also resonate with the idea that rewarding smart kids for being good at taking tests tends to undermine their work ethic and grit; when I finally got to math classes I couldn't just ace the test on, I had a very hard time; I truly didn't know how to buckle down, on my own, and do homework, because I'd never actually had to do that before.

On the other hand, when I'm hiring people, I've discovered I really do want to hire people who are able to ace simple math questions quickly. It's not sufficient, but it seems to be very correlated with being able to wrap your head around complicated code.


As I told a couple others, you just hit the ceiling.

That doesn't mean tests don't work; if you wanted to, you could have found much harder ones. (That's what I did, out of necessity. They wouldn't have given my app a second look if I hadn't.)


Congratulations, you’re probably very smart.

This is exactly correct.

Those who fight for fair admissions on the basis of intellectual ability and academic potential should hold up the SAT and standardized testing as a cornerstone of the admissions process.

Standardized testing significantly levels the playing field for students across income brackets. Returns on study investment quickly diminish, and reaching a plateau on returns doesn't require much investment at all (internet connection and the purchase of a few large study manuals).

At my high school in sophomore year I remember speaking with a wealthy friend whose father had signed him up for flying lessons so he could "stand out in college admissions". There are many, many cases like this.

Admissions should disregard such superficial peacocking and focus on metrics like the SAT that disentangle intellectual and academic potential from wealth.


The premise of your answer is that MIT wants good "students" and "test takers". What if that's not what they want so much anymore? A test is supposed to be a metric, an indicator of something. But metrics tend to become target as soon as they're exposed. Maybe then they still remain an indicator of something, but not necessarily what they were originally intended to filter for.

I understand that it might feel like the goalposts are being moved for people who optimize to score high on such metrics, but such is the nature of this type of games. That's also why search engine companies have to keep refining their algorithms.


MIT has an obvious incentive to admit rich, well-connected people, and an obvious incentive to maintain a reputation for admitting the most intelligent on merit. We should be sceptical of any changes they make that purport to be about getting more meritorious students, especially if those changes result in the admission of more rich, well-connected people.

Good test takers are people who have learned things and know them well enough to pass a test on it. There are many kinds of test. The SAT is the kind designed by psychometricians, experts with Ph.D.s building on millions of man hours of research to make tests that are both valid and reliable, that predict success in college and are as close to ungameable as possible.

MIT could drop the real SAT tomorrow and still fill its freshman class with valedictorians who captained their high school sports team and have ten AP 5s. Schools with fewer applicants have the SAT.


>Good test takers are people who have learned things and know them well enough to pass a test on it.

Tell that to the massive test prep industry. Many many years ago I took a trial SAT and scored around 1000. Then I took a Kaplan SAT prep course, and lo and behold after learning all the tricks scored a 1300 on a test SAT. Back then the test prep course cost > $1000. I had a car in high school, so I could drive to the test prep school in the evenings.

Seems to me that people who prep for the tests (not necessarily learned things through high school) and are willing to spend time and money have a great margin of benefit.

It's the same thing for tech interview prep industry. The ones who prep well for the interview, do well in the interview.


> The SAT is the kind designed by psychometricians, experts with Ph.D.s building on millions of man hours of research to make tests that are both valid and reliable, that predict success in college and are as close to ungameable as possible.

This is what the CollegeBoard wants you think. You don’t have to be all that great to realize that the people writing the test are hardly better than you are at both the subject and writing test, and in many case significantly worse.


They’re hiring two Ph.D. holding psychometricians right now. https://careers.collegeboard.org/search-jobs?title=Psychomet...

In many cases, not, in many case.


Assistant? Associate?

The titles don't give too much confidence.


These are positions for which a Ph.D. is an absolute requirement. Compare Assistant or Associate Professor.

> About you

> Education/Experience:

> Doctorate in psychometrics, educational research, educational measurement or a related field is required. New PhD level applicants will be considered, as will applicants with additional experience. A minimum of 3 years relevant experience is required for the Associate level.


I suspect this is just getting rid of redundancy. Everyone taking the SAT subject tests is probably taking the equivalent Advanced Placement test anyhow.

However, the biggest problems with these tests (and the AP tests) is that they are expensive--they cost a non-trivial amount of money to sign up for and they cost a lot of time to prepare for if your school doesn't offer direct AP classes.

The expensiveness is the barrier.


Exactly. I took all of the AP equivalents of the SAT2s senior year before starting at MIT. It seemed pointless. And my parents paid for each one.

Edit: I meant I took the SAT subject tests along with their AP equivalents.


Aren't the AP tests far more difficult than the SAT subject tests? That's what I remember at least for chemistry (maybe?) back when I took both exams.

To clarify, I meant to say “along with”. I took the APs and their SAT subject equivalents

Also, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that AP exams are more difficult than the SAT subject tests. School curriculum is not uniform. In fact, in my high school the material for certain SAT subjects tests was _only_ taught in AP classes.

Yes, AP is college level, and SAT is high school level.

My school had a deal where when you signed up for an AP class you had to take the AP test. But if you pass the AP test (3 or higher) the school would reimburse you. I took 5 tests and never paid for one. Including the one where we didn't have a teacher for half a year (long story).

I think this is the fairest way to do it. If you got talent but no money, the opportunity is still there.


> My school had a deal where when you signed up for an AP class you had to take the AP test. But if you pass the AP test (3 or higher) the school would reimburse you.

This just drives home the unfairness though.

You had a school that was willing to pony up this money. That is not universally true.


While I agree, let's acknowledge the fair critique from the end that is not, "Keeping high-achieving Asian kids out": the part where the tests themselves cost money parents (and school systems) don't have; the part where the study guide in and of itself is not enough to prepare for these exams, leaving us the true, astronomical cost of preparation; the part where this is all begging the question of what admissions tests are for anyway (generally, the same things poll taxes and quizzes were for).

I agree that the answer is the base SAT, but with an addition of a lottery past a point threshold. Luck (of birth) got us into this mess, and luck could get us out.


> Luck (of birth) got us into this mess, and luck could get us out.

I'm all in favor of adding some kind of RNG to this process. The overpreparation of the wealthy in all kinds of aspects of admissions gives them a big advantage over those who don't. RNG evens it out.


I disagree. A raffle system, while inevitable in some cases (H-1B lottery comes to mind), is totally inappropriate when applied to a standardized test. Quite on the contrary, a standardized test aims to measure capability (however abstract it is), not luck.

I think it's perfectly reasonable to go with a lottery system after some point. Most people with a ACT over ~30 are going to be completely capable of performing the coursework for an undergraduate degree at MIT. And anyone with a perfect score is going to be fine anyway. There are plenty of world-class institutions in the USA that would be more than happy to accept these peopl.

>I think it's perfectly reasonable to go with a lottery system after some point.

Only the wealthy can afford to apply to every single "prestige" college and university available. A lottery where some people get twenty tickets and others get one or two seems just as silly.


This is not entirely true. SAT scores can be used as ways to admit more privileged students, as they tend to have access to more test prep along with privileges such as extra time:

> In 2010 three College Board researchers analyzed data from more than 150,000 students who took the SAT, and they found that the demographics of the two “discrepant” groups differed substantially. The students with the inflated SAT scores were more likely to be white or Asian than the students in the deflated-SAT group, and they were much more likely to be male. Their families were also much better off. Compared with the students with the deflated SAT scores, the inflated-SAT students were more than twice as likely to have parents who earned more than $100,000 a year and more than twice as likely to have parents with graduate degrees. These were the students — the only students — who were getting an advantage in admissions from the SAT. And they were exactly the kind of students that Trinity was admitting in such large numbers in the years before Pérez arrived.

> By contrast, according to the College Board’s demographic analysis, students in the deflated-SAT group, the ones whose SAT scores were significantly lower than their high school grades would have predicted, were twice as likely to be black as students in the inflated-SAT group, nearly twice as likely to be female and almost three times as likely to be Hispanic. They were three times as likely as students in the inflated-SAT group to have parents who earned less than $30,000 a year, and they were almost three times as likely to have parents who hadn’t attended college. They were the students — the only students — whose college chances suffered when admissions offices considered the SAT in addition to high school grades.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/10/magazine/coll...

The article goes on to explain that while grade point average is relatively consistent across income level, SAT scores are skewed towards the rich. Schools have realized this, which is why many schools no longer require the SAT or ACT.


Does that study control for school quality? If grades are normalized for a local school population, then good grades at one school can be worse than mediocre grades at another school.

This was exactly the purpose for which tests like the SAT were created. If that factor wasn’t controlled for, then the quote above is misleading.


GPA is already scaled based on income because poor schools give higher GPAs for the same level of knowledge and skill. The study is useless.

While I've heard that said, I've never seen proof that grades are inflated at poor schools. I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't actually the opposite, as helicopter parents and their ambitious students are more able (more free time) to self-promote and argue their way into higher grades.

Grades are more inflated at rich school. The presure teachers are under is great. For private school, if parents can get better grades elsewhere they will move them.

The material may be easier in a poor school and an average student can seem amazing compared to a below average student.

The rich dumb, poor smart both come in from behind the eightball. Rich can buy there way out and poor can work there way in. If I'm mit I want rich smart.. seems less risky.


The tests don't not work (I believe that within the middle of bell-curve they accomplish their goal well), but at the extremes they are prone to gamification, especially to those in the know. For example, the pre-2017 SAT had some well known (and some lesser known) tricks that you would only know by studying the test, rather than the material:

- ALL sections (and sub-sections) have questions that strictly increase in difficulty / projected "miss-rate" as time goes on. This is to keep test takers from coming back to answers they're unsure about but may themselves know how to solve -- so if you find yourself struggling with questions in a row, it's better to stop and go back rather than miss out on what you may already know trying to solve questions that you don't. For the reading section, the scale is scoped to each passage. For the vocab section, where there are 3 sections (vocab, grammar, and multiple-choice fill in the blank), the scale is scoped to each subsection. For the math section, it is scoped to the whole thing.

- The "Free Section" (e.g. the one that doesn't count toward your score, which instructors tell you before you start that section, so you can use it as a break if you wish) is usually section 4 or 5 of the test, to help plan your breaks. Some students, not previously-knowing or confused that the "free section" is ungraded, still take it thinking there must be a penalty of some sort.

- The word "equivocal" is tested within the SAT Vocab in around 60% of tests. Unequivocally, these questions have some of the highest wrong-rates of any question on the test.

- Within the grammar questions, Choice (e) "None of the above" is 99% of the time NEVER the answer. This is one of the most certain things on the test.

- The math questions will usually have (1) answer that is an outlier. 95% of the time, this is not the correct answer; (2) will be similar to the correct answer in different ways; and (1) will be the correct answer (e.g., say you're supposed to subtract "x" by 5 to get to the real answer. The obviously fake one might be multiplied by 5. One of the slightly-wrong answers might have 5 added rather than subtracted, another might just be off by 1). If you're ever in doubt, you can drastically increase your chances at guessing on a question by picking the question "most similar" to all of the others -- something like 65% chance, rather than 25% in the naive case.

- Again for math questions -- particularly the "word riddle" type ones -- the SAT will generally purposely pick questions that could have multiple seemingly-correct questions if you plug in 1, 2, 5, or 10 for the variables. 3 is almost always a safe bet, though I particularly liked to choose 7, because who thinks you'd ever choose to plug in 7.

- The essay is funny. Per the SAT's own published rules, they are not graded on fact at all; purely rhetoric, vocabulary choice, and clarity. All of the prompts also usually include a historical figure or event of some sort -- you don't need to know anything about them other than what the prompt tells you, but a well-known and easy way to win points with the graders is to make up a fake quote from someone adjacent to the event / historical figure as a hook: e.g. "Disconsolate upon hearing the tragedy of [EVENT X], [FIGURE Y]'s au pair journaled 'His life was short, but his memory will last forever'. Previously unknown to historians until then, Y's au pair embodied Y's belief that [SOMETHING FROM THE PROMPT]. [then THESIS STATEMENT on 3rd or 4th sentence, always]." (this is an objectively wrong and terrible sentence that I would hate to read in any other context. This is, however, similar to the SAT's example of a top-tier intro).

This is just the tip of the iceberg, too. It's a very predictable format and pattern (it has to be, as it's given multiple times during the same academic year; tests must be similar, lest one session of test takers do statistically significantly better than an equally-talented group which takes the test a month later)

So yes, while I believe the SAT does attempt to test for knowledge, it's that same pursuit of a bell curve that makes it easily gamifiable for those who know the test and not the material -- who are, once again, usually already the wealthy and connected.


Wow, this is a remarkable level of gaming that I never was aware of!

> - Within the grammar questions, Choice (e) "None of the above" is 99% of the time NEVER the answer.

> - The math questions will usually have (1) answer that is an outlier. 95% of the time, this is not the correct answer; (2) will be similar to the correct answer in different ways; and (1) will be the correct answer

This is exactly the reason that, when I design tests, I strive to make "none of the above" or the outlier answer the correct one about 20% of the time. I really hope the SAT writers are doing that now.

> ALL sections (and sub-sections) have questions that strictly increase in difficulty / projected "miss-rate" as time goes on.

The computerized GRE goes even further... it's like a videogame, it feeds you harder questions the better you do, then reverts to easier ones when you mess up.


> The computerized GRE goes even further... it's like a videogame, it feeds you harder questions the better you do, then reverts to easier ones when you mess up.

Isn't that one of the better ways to finely calibrate a score? Rough approximation of heapsort?


Yes, it definitely is!

It does feel a little crazy, though, when suddenly all the vocab words are like, "tergiversate" and "pulchritudinous". And then when you get them all wrong it's back to "the cat sat on the mat". :P


I completely agree, and as much as I hate CollegeBoard hope they've done more to reinvent their tests, as I do think objective measurement of some kind does have a place in admissions, even though perhaps as not the end-all-be-all it used to be.

I used to be semi-adjacent to that sphere, but I do not know anything about the current format of the tests other than what is published.


Yes you need to learn to look for the distractors and rule them out

> The essay is funny. Per the SAT's own published rules, they are not graded on fact at all; purely rhetoric, vocabulary choice, and clarity. All of the prompts also usually include a historical figure or event of some sort -- you don't need to know anything about them other than what the prompt tells you

When I realized this applied to a lot of required essays -- ie, they can be fiction or satire -- I had a lot more fun writing papers. I wouldn't exactly recommend it but can confirm it doesn't completely tank your GPA.


This reminds me of a Physics GRE I took. I studied all the tests and remember very clearly the test saying to only calculate to two decimal places to save time. There was a relativity question that had 3 answers that just varied on how many decimal places you carried through your calculations. That question had the answer if you kept 2. But it also had the answers for more. I'm not sure questions like this actually show that you know the material, considering to get 3 of the 5 answers you have to do the actual calculations.

What I learned about studying for tests like these was that you were studying for the test, not the material. This felt extremely different than studying for... say... an actual physics test.


I wish more people who fall into the kneejerk "we must emphasize only objective testing" group were aware of things like these. Standardized tests are incredibly game-able, particularly at the upper tail of the distribution. Because of the nature of that distribution, that means that if you selected students only by "objective" measures like standardized test scores, you will be disproportionately selecting for students who are experts at test-taking, not experts at being good students.

The more we can reduce the overdependence on standardized tests, the better we can be at selecting for well-rounded students and not just test-gamers.


Indeed, much better to select for the kinds of people whose parents know how these things work and can ensure their child has the right letters of recommendation, internships and extracurricular activities. And don’t be terribly specific about what exactly it v is you want; that way you can change it from year to year to ensure the right kind of people get in. Wouldn’t want Harvard to look like Cal Tech or Berkekk OK way would we? That’s what happens when you have a public, objective test instead of being able to select some smart and some connected.

This is not at all what I said, but by all means continue to project your own insecurities.

Maybe this is will be seen as radical but I think the best way to end all this gaming is for collegeboard to not release their previous tests to the public. There simply shouldn't be enough data out there to study the test rather than the material. All that should be known in advance is the topics, format (multi choice v. Open ended) and point system. I'm sure the cottage industry of test prep companies would hate it, as would those that prefer studying the test to having merits, but those groups can pound sand.

You don’t need examples of previous tests to prepare. Even if there was perfect enforcement of no recording devices, no corruption, no breaking in and stealing test papers people would talk about what the test was like, sitting to sitting. Some people retake the test multiple times. This would probably become normative in this case because the practice effect on IQ tests like the SAT is small but real. If people were really motivated you can just pay 100 people to do the test and get them to memorize parts of it, then stitch the parts together afterwards.

Decreased transparency increases the advantage the test prep industry has, since they'll find a way to get them anyway.

The CollegeBoard is notoriously closed with their tests.

The SAT is intended to test aptitude, not knowledge. It's right there in the name.

> Standardized testing significantly levels the playing field for students across income brackets.

There's a correlation between parental income and SAT scores.

“[S]tudents from families earning more than $200,000 a year average a combined score of 1,714, while students from families earning under $20,000 a year average a combined score of 1,326.”

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/03/rich-students-get-better-sat...

An "equalizing effect" would imply students of both parental income groups would have the same score.


There's a correlation between parental income and IQ scores too. There's also a correlation between parental income and GPA. It's just a correlation, though, and it does not follow that a good standardized test would result in the average score would match across different parental income groups.

Just because a test is standardized doesn't mean it completely eliminates all confounding factors outside of the test, but it does mitigate some of them. Equality and equity aren't the same thing.

Certainly, without reliance on standardized testing I'm somehow certain that Braden who got a helicopter pilot's license at 16 so he could fly the family helo from Manhattan to Westchester is going to do better in admissions than Tyrone who excelled in academics and was lucky enough to attend a technology magnet school, but grew up in the projects and had no access to anything outside of what school and the library provided. With SAT tests included, the fact Braden made a 1530 and Tyrone made a 1970 plays a factor.

That's what folks are saying.


But there’s a much greater correlation between parental income and other measures you could use to evaluate applicants. Even height has parental income correlation, you can‘t eliminate it completely.

How is this comment upvoted? MIT has not removed the requirement to take SAT tests.

> We will continue to require the SAT or the ACT, because our research has shown these tests, in combination with a student’s high school grades and coursework, are predictive of success in our challenging curriculum.

This is typical of a knee-jerk reaction without even understanding their policy. Let alone reading the actual post. It's the answer to the very first question at the top of the post. I thought HN would do better than this.


Probably because many (most?) people don't take or know about the subject tests.

I thought I had never heard of them, but after looking at wikipedia, it looks like they were called the SAT II when I was in high school. I remember that existing, but never knew why you would take them and never knew anybody that did.

It's not a stretch to imagine people being confused.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAT_Subject_Tests


SAT IIs are pretty obscure, and I don't think there's any benefit to taking them over AP tests, since APs can sometimes be translated into college credits and have much more support in public schools.

One of the points of metrics is to reduce the relevance of how savvy your parents are. But you have to have pretty savvy parents to take the SAT IIs.

Metrics get a lot of heat from people who don't realize what the alternative is, but I know a guy who got into Harvard because his grandparents go to the same synagogue as some admissions people and called in a favor. _That's_ the alternative to metrics.


It's been a few years since I applied to college, but subject tests were nice because they showed a baseline for certain subjects that didn't really have AP exams (e.g. Math II is everything through pre-calculus). You can also take them more than once, unlike AP exams. Also, you don't send "official" AP scores to college admissions; you only do that once you're admitted, since they actually go to the registrar, not admissions. You simply self-report AP scores otherwise.

I feel like there are other benefits that I'm forgetting, but those come to mind immediately.


It's explicitly explained in the very short article. Yet somehow people lacking basic reading comprehension are en masse bemoaning the dumbing down of kids these days.

And way back, they were apparently called the Achievement Tests. I vaguely remember taking a few but don't otherwise remember much about them or what the requirements were.

GP comment seems completely relevant to SAT subject tests to me. The point is that removing a test from consideration, even if it's not the only test considered, makes it easier for rich people to game the application process.

No. The point about replacing a test with more subjective criteria is completely invalidated when, instead, multiple tests are replaced with a single test.

EDIT: Instead of completely invalidated, I should say irrelevant to MIT's change. In another context it could be an important point.


I think the top level comment is based on the assumption that a greater quantity of objective data will lead to a greater weighting of objective data, and a lower quantity will lead to a lower weighting, leading to a greater weighting of subjective measures.

Likewise, there are many skills you can't demonstrate on the SAT such as Spanish language proficiency. For whatever reason I took the French subject test but no AP test, perhaps there are other schools that do this.

The math score might say a little about the other sciences, but the blmultilingual students are going to be disadvantaged by this it seems to me.


This is completely incorrect. The SAT is not changing to incorporate the skills that would have previously measured by the subject test. As a result we are simply going to have fewer objective metrics.

When I say "replacing" I mean in terms of the weight they carry in admissions.

Exactly. If you look at the comments on the linked article, or the ones that were on top here when I wrote mine, people are making comments that aren't specific to the SAT subject test at all -- "this is great, because I bombed that test", "this lowers stress", "that test was too easy anyway".

If the subject test was a thing that everyone was informed about, did not cost extra, and was readily available, if not required alongside standard SAT administration, then I would be more inclined to agree. But here knowing that they even exist is half the battle.

What you call a "smooth-talker" is what someone else would call an articulate, socially well-adjusted person who can communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way and who is comfortable making connections with others. Perhaps if this was the standard college admissions used, public schools would have more incentive to educate students as functional humans rather than test-taking drones.

The problem is that "articulate, socially well-adjusted person who can communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way and who is comfortable making connections with others" is (a) highly subjective, and (b) only a means to an end. The end is to have a productive civil society where people do not prey on other people. Unfortunately, all these highly subjective characteristics are used by people to prey on other people instead of to help with having a productive, civil society. So by themselves they can't be used as a standard. There has to be some objective criterion to distinguish people who can actually contribute to a productive civil society from people who prey on other people.

If a university's objective is to select the applicants most likely to reflect prestige and wealth back onto it, the university is best served by picking those who can most effectively cause themselves to be selected (rather than the most academically gifted students).

Admissions essentially boils down to "impress me." (Not saying that's good for society, but it's good for the university.)

It's one of the exceptional cases where Goodhart's Law—"a targeted metric is no longer good"—doesn't hold.


Distrusting social skills, linguistic ability, and emotional intelligence doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

It's not like there aren't plenty of engineers, scientists, math folks, i.e. those "honest", quantitative folks, who aren't also crappy or deceptive people.

Just look at Facebook! ;)


> Distrusting social skills, linguistic ability, and emotional intelligence doesn't sound like a recipe for success.

It's not a matter of "trusting" vs. "distrusting" them. It's a matter of what universities (and other exclusive institutions, for that matter) select for. If you select for "social skills, linguistic ability, and emotional intelligence" without also having any objective way of measuring actual productive potential, not to mention evaluating a person's actual willingness to use their talents in support of a cooperative civil society, you're going to get a lot of people who will be very good at preying on others and using the system they are gaining entrance to as a tool to that end.

> It's not like there aren't plenty of engineers, scientists, math folks, i.e. those "honest", quantitative folks, who aren't also crappy or deceptive people

Yes, that's true, but without those social skills they do a lot less damage, because they can't get very many people to interact with them.


How exactly do standardized tests identify those who will or won't prey on other people?

They don't identify that directly. But they do identify the potential to do something productive. Obviously that can't be the only thing being used to judge people; but some objective standard like that has to be part of what is being used.

Also, regardless of what standardized tests do or don't do, judging based on "articulate, socially well-adjusted person who can communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way and who is comfortable making connections with others" is, IMO, a very poor way of filtering out people who will prey on other people, since anyone who preys on other people has to have those skills (or at any rate be able to fake them well enough to pass a test for them) to be successful at it.


"They don't identify that directly. But they do identify the potential to do something productive." It think your definition of what is productive might be very different than mine.

"since anyone who preys on other people has to have those skills" If you look at history you will find many without those skills that preyed on others.


> an articulate, socially well-adjusted person who can communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way

Yes, that's me.

> and who is comfortable making connections with others

And that will never be me.

Leadership is inherently nepotistic. You simply aren't permitted to lead if you have the wrong class background or the wrong ethnicity. (There's a reason all Senators look exactly the same.) You're literally just advocating for an old boys' club, and if that's what you want, you might as well be explicit about it.


> You simply aren't permitted to lead if you have the wrong class background or the wrong ethnicity. (There's a reason all Senators look exactly the same.)

In what sense did, I dunno, Obama and McConnell look exactly the same?


There are almost 40 million black Americans and the only one to make president went to top private schools and was raised by his WASP mom

You might consider how Obama and Clinton being president drove the over-class completely insane.

Language is a social creature, you can't have language without society and social interactions, if you're not able to communicate with spoken word you simply can't work as effectively with others. Especially if you can't make connections with others.

In fact, most of history the etymology of words wasn't a huge topic because everyone would pronounce the words in their language similarly and thus language wouldn't evolve nearly as rapidly--the phoneme is as important as the lexeme when it comes to language.

The insert bridge here wasn't built in a day, with one person.


> In fact, most of history the etymology of words wasn't a huge topic because everyone would pronounce the words in their language similarly and thus language wouldn't evolve nearly as rapidly--the phoneme is as important as the lexeme when it comes to language.

Uh, what? How do you think we got more than one language in the first place? How do you think we have entire language families with mutually-unintelligable members? Or what about dialectal continuums? If anything, I would posit that we are closer to your statement now than at any other time, because the printing press calcified spelling -- which could vary quite a bit in the time of scribes. And radio and TV and the Internet have started spreading linguistic innovation faster.


This is straight from Saussure, and then Chomsky. You can read his first course in linguistics [1].

It was highly disputed in the 1800s.

I'm not an expert, but:

> Uh, what? How do you think we got more than one language in the first place?

We would compete for resources, new languages would be created rapidly from old languages instead of the gradual change we're seeing in the last 4000 years.

> How do you think we have entire language families with mutually-unintelligable members?

All language, like I said, is composed of many -emes. Chomsky's big discovery was that you can't seaparate syntax and semantics when it comes to any language.

> Or what about dialectal continuums? If anything, I would posit that we are closer to your statement now than at any other time, because the printing press calcified spelling -- which could vary quite a bit in the time of scribes. And radio and TV and the Internet have started spreading linguistic innovation faster.

This is the standard intuitive view with when one has no evidence. There is strong evidence to suggest that it is the individuals who mispronounce written words who cause this rapid change in language--they are mispronounced and then subsequently miswritten, and then their semantics are subsequently misinterpreted, so their syntax and semantics slowly change in this fashion.

Saussure, the founder of the modern linguistic tradition, has this all outlined in his book [1]. He outlines your view, and then shows you that it is in fact not true.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Course_in_General_Linguistics


Well, maybe.

But being the kind of articulate person college people appreciate is also a strong cultural marker that you come from the "college tribe".


Exactly. People don't talk about class enough in this topic. The kind of people that college interviewers appreciate (in terms of behavior) will almost always be upper middle class people and those who know enough to behave like upper middle class people.

That's not true anymore in the "diversity" era.

Harvard just had a huge lawsuit about that.


It's hard to create an accountable system to identify "smooth-talkers". We already know that perceived charisma is highly dependent on attractiveness, ethnicity, and other innate factors.

What we could do is gauge students' communication ability in a way that is less subject to these factors. Which we already do, by examining students' writing.


What's the difference between perceived charisma and charisma?

Charisma that can come off in a 1 hour meeting, vs. ability to communicate and work with a team towards a goal.

I think that "smooth-talker" is typically not sonmeone who is articulate and socially well-adjusted who communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way.

The typical use of the word refers to manipulative people who will smoothly pretend values and opinions they don't have in order to mislead people and take advantage of them. Alternatively it is people who talk about things they know nothing about convincingly enough for those who also know nothing about the topic.

The two are much different things. People who communicate their values and opinions have massive comparative disadvantage against them.


> people who talk about things they know nothing about convincingly enough for those who also know nothing about the topic.

Exactly. This is what a room full of smooth talkers looks like: two top journalists agreeing on national TV that 500 million divided by 327 million is greater than 1 million.

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2020/03/06/msnbcs_br...


You’re judging people by some stupid mistake that could have any of a million reasons. Maybe their monitors are small and they couldn’t read it, or they were thinking about whatever was coming up.

Your criticism seems motivated by some prior grudges against these people. For leadership Postillions, I’d prefer someone bad at math over anyone this petty.


> test-taking drones

I've never done well on a test when I didn't understand the material, and I've always done well on test when I did.


> an articulate, socially well-adjusted person who can communicate their values and opinions in an intelligent way and who is comfortable making connections with others

If there's any correlation with this and academic success, it's not necessarily a positive one. There's a grain of truth to the stereotype of "nerds" not having great people skills.


Sure. But in the end I'd rather have my bridges designed by people that are really good at math.

Problem is, hard science has been known to be difficult to articulate, and a successful researcher may lose their characteristic as being socially well-adjusted (to the point of being burnt at stake).

OP’s “smooth talker” is a pedigreed bullshitter with a millionaire dad, big fake smile, and popped collar, who combines just enough sound bite knowledge with fancy-sounding words, signaling to similar ivy leaguers that he’s “one of them.” Pretty much the opposite of someone you’d select on academic merit alone.

functional humans ==> parasites who steal the economic output of non-smooth talkers.

The whole world is a gigantic Animal Farm, also in the West. The apparatchiks have different functions and names, but the principle is the same. The system works better though.


All this would do is benefit the already-privileged and create affinity bias. Basically just affirmative action for white people from middle class and above homes.

Why do you feel the need to name white people specifically?

Well, I am white and think that there is a difference in the way people socialize depending on their socioeconomic status, the area they grew up in, and the culture/language they are exposed to at home. And in the US it’s basically all white people who are most advantaged in these aspects. It will likely change over time as more Hispanic/Asian people become second+ generation immigrants rather than first, though

I remember going to college not so long ago and meeting kids who had grown up in the US who still had an accent/manner of speaking that they got from their parents (like a Chinese or Spanish accent). And of course there are very smart kids who grow up with AAVE or strong regional accents, some of whom are probably white but who probably aren’t from a good socioeconomic class.


Because the Senate is over 90% white, and most of the rest are at least half-white.

To people in this country, that's what leadership looks like, so if you grade based on leadership, that's what you're going to get. Not playing identity politics here, just stating a fact.


Remind me of the relationship between the Senate and testing for college admissions.

> To people in this country, that's what leadership looks like, so if you grade based on leadership, that's what you're going to get.

Valuable point, I don't see this framing enough.

As

maybe for low-level engineering drones who don't have any say in what gets built, which is typical for the first few years of an engineer's career. But senior engineers, and especially engineering management need to have good communications skills to work cross-functionally.

Surely MIT would rather graduate future engineering leaders and technical founders and not just engineers.


Agree completely. SAT isn't perfect or perfectly objective. No test is. As long as a test controls admission to a highly desirable school, there will be exorbitantly expensive courses for it.

However, it is a far more objective test than the rest of the admission packet, and it's being dropped with no alternative.

This will make admissions less fair, precisely because SAT is still a test that you can ace with discipline and hard work without much monetary investment, and it will be replaced by other criteria that actually requires more capital.


To clarify, this announcement is only about the SAT subject tests.

For now.

Given that there may be no SAT or ACT tests administered from March until ????, how will colleges deal with the class of 2021?

> SAT isn't perfect or perfectly objective

But it is the closest thing anybody's ever come up with.


Agreed. In my opinion, the best way to make admissions more fair is not to eliminate the SAT but to eliminate score choice.

And eliminate legacy preference and ability for sports coaches to influence admissions.

I was rejected by MIT even though my father attended. I don't think MIT does legacy admissions, or sports admissions.

Didn’t mean that comment to be about MIT (who may not do legacy preference and certainly isnt lowering academic standards to win ncaa championships). But those are both factors at other top schools including the Ivies and Stanford

legacy preference just gives you a +1, not guaranteed.

I applied to 10 ivy league universities, and was accepted by 3. It's reasonable to suppose that if MIT gave a +1 for legacy admits, I would have gotten the nod.

that is not a reasonable assumption at all - it's a dice roll regardless. admission at one good school doesn't guarantee admission at another, even if you have legacy.

(and is also highly dependent on which Ivies we're talking about - not all Ivies are HYP, which are more on par with MIT)


> that is not a reasonable assumption at all - it's a dice roll regardless. admission at one good school doesn't guarantee admission at another

Saying "reasonable assumption" is not at all saying "guaranteed". Please stick to discussing ideas and not deliberately misinterpreting plain language.


> Anybody cheering the exclusion of some test or other, because it was a pain to study for in high school, is simply not noticing the frog-boiling secondary effects going on. Every bit of emphasis taken out of objective results mean more advantage for smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected people.

Absolutely right. Standardized testing become popular in the first place as an egalitarian measure, a way to combat inherited wealth and privilege. But wealth and privilege always want to propagate themselves to the next generation. Nowadays, we see rich parents paying crazy amounts of money to get their mediocre children into high-end schools, sometimes to the point of straight-up bribery [1]. They bribe crooked doctors into lying about their kids needing extra time on exams. After they get their mediocre kids into "top" schools, parents demand grade inflation. Once the kids graduate, they spend years supported by their parents in unpaid internships smarming their way into positions of power and influence unavailable to anyone who has to get paid to live. We have a thoroughly corrupt system that promotes stagnation, corruption, and incompetence.

Standardized testing is extremely inconvenient for the kind of person who uses these dirty tricks. It's hard to buy a university enough libraries to cover up your kid's 1100 on the SAT. This whole push to deprecate standardized testing is just corruption justified with twisty self-serving rhetoric about fake justice.

Only standardized testing should count toward university admission, because the only thing that matters is the competence of the next generation of decision-makers. We can only have a functioning society because good decisions get made, and status corruption damages society's ability to make good decisions.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_college_admissions_briber...


The bribery scandal especially depresses me, because a lot of the colleges impacted had official bribery systems in place -- you're supposed to donate to the "Development Office" to get on the "Dean's List", or some other set of euphemisms. What the colleges were actually outraged about is that these middling-rich people tried to cheap out by paying a smaller bribe to some other office.

If someone donates enough money for a lab or an entire building or something that can be used by students for decades as a means to get their underperforming kid in, yeah, that's technically a bribe but I'm kind of okay with that because the good so vastly outweighs the bad.

How many labs can an Uni build to accept all the silverspoons? A lot of money end up not in the common pool of resources but are pocketed in different ways by the staff and board. This myth is becoming trite already. The rich pay their way in and not necessarily for the education but for the credentials.

There's something that doesn't quite make sense to me about this worry of wealthy people passing on their privileges to their children. Their children are different individuals who were effectively randomly chosen to be born into that situation. Why should it be some other child who was randomly chosen some other way instead? No matter who gets into Harvard, it's still the same number of people who somehow ended up with that privilege.

Is it simple jealousy of rich people? Or is it a worry that their kids aren't really the most capable so society won't function so well when they're eventually in charge? I'd say their kids probably are the most capable because elite universities get their funding and fame from successful graduates so they're incentivized to choose the people with greatest chance of success. Of a well-connected rich kid and a poorly-connected poor kid with the same SAT scores, the rich kid has better chance of future career success.


I think it's important to clarify that that SAT is not the same as the SAT Subject Tests. The latter are being excluded, but not the former. One could reasonably argue at this point that the Subject Tests are simply redundant with AP tests.

>mean more advantage for smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected people.

The whole point of the American University is to produce these kind of people so that shouldn’t be surprising. Otherwise you could earn a degree via self study proctored exams. Lack of objectivity during the application is a symptom not a cause.


I'd like to see more people being able to take self-study proctored exams, for those fields that can do it. There's a lot to be said for what is essentially a vo-tech education. It's purely objective and very useful.

That would leave a lot more space open in schools for creative work. That includes both academic research and the humanities, which are less objective but nonetheless valuable. As has been pointed out before, during the current health crisis, people turn to the arts: TV, books, podcasts, video games, etc. These are things that are hard to learn with self-study and impossible to test for -- except for the test of whether people will want to consume them.

Even programmers eventually need at least some of this. A development team requires a lot of people trained at a purely vo-tech, objective level to be experts in the various technologies. But for a product to be successful, it also requires people who know what its users want, which is much harder to judge objectively, and harder to learn from a book.

I believe too many programmers go to university to learn what they could learn on their own, or at a much less expensive school that doesn't try give a broad education. We need a lot of those, and employers make a mistake in rejecting people who don't have that university degree. Worse, even among those with that university degree, they test them purely on their objective skills, and then later complain that they produce ugly interfaces and write terribly.


Colleges have lost their monopoly on education but still hold the monopoly on accreditation. If we can figure out how to reduce that latter monopoly colleges will lose a lot of their power

College Prep is a giant business that needs to be dismantled. They have a monopoly in this area.

IMO each college should be doing their own objective test. Definitely agree about subjective tests - smooth talkers will get ahead. But that's already the case in getting a job after they graduate - interviewing process is already broken.


Standardized testing is a natural monopoly -- if you have every college making their own, it's a crazy duplication of work, will produce a lot of substandard tests, and will put tons of strain on the students. Might as well ask everybody to lay their own fiber.

ETS isn't perfect (I think the amount they charge for GRE-related stuff is sickening) but it at least does a good job of making sure the best prep resources possible are cheap or free.


> monopoly

Aside from the fact that this is all off-topic since MIT's announcement is about the SAT subject tests, not the SAT itself, it is not a true monopoly anyway.

MIT's web site says they accept either the SAT or the ACT. ("We require the SAT or the ACT.") The SAT is from College Board, and the ACT is from ACT, Inc., which are two different organizations. Both tests are in wide use, so if anything it is a duopoly.


Won't each college having to have their own test lead to many/most colleges, especially smaller ones, finding it easier or more cost effective to purchase their test from a central source, leading to some large College Board-like company making exams and a prep industry for that standard exam?

I think it’s pretty insane that a single company is a gatekeeper to elite institutions.

I’m honestly not sure of the solution, but the problem is pretty evident. College Prep could raise exam fees by 200% tomorrow and you have no law, no oversight from the government or anything preventing them from doing so. Absolute monopoly.

They’re no different than professors in bed with book publishers, mandating a particular book for the course. Students need to spend $350 on a textbook is insanity.


>I think it’s pretty insane that a single company is a gatekeeper to elite institutions.

Not just elite institutions, I would say 99% of accredited institutions in the US. You would be hard pressed to find an accredited college program in the US that doesn't require either SAT or ACT (talking about the general test, not the subject ones).

P.S. That 99% estimation is obviously made up, but I am yet to find a college that doesn't require an ACT or SAT score, and I applied to many different kinds of colleges in early 2010s (out of state, in-state, public, private, etc.), with almost none of them being MIT-tier elite.


And how exactly will you "dismantle it"?

People want to pay thousands of dollars to try to gain access to elite institutions. No matter what test you'll come up with, someone will offer an expensive prep course for it, because they will have willing customers.


Mandate that colleges accept scores from at least 3 different standardized tests, administered by different companies, and that the scores must be easily comparable. That may help break ETS's stranglehold over the market and test fees or test prep material might become reasonable.

the SAT test fee is about $65 and there's tons of free prep material (including direct from college board). what would you consider a reasonable price?

Hard to say if that's actually reasonable, given there's exactly 1 (maybe 2, if you count the ACT) test providers. Not really a competitive market.

For a multiple-choice exam, administered electronically to dozens of test-takers supervised by one proctor...is that actually reasonable? Plus they charge you $15 extra if you want more than 4 scores. Most students apply to more than 4 colleges. Are they physically mailing scores to these institutions?

For a mostly-electronic process (other than the essay grading) $65 sounds like a lot. $40 for the non-essay option sounds even more crazy.


I don't mean reasonable in a market equilibrium sense, more of a "hey, that price seems about right" sense.

I'm sure it's not trivial to make multiple versions of the same test every year where the scores are all comparable with each other. then you have to distribute the materials while minimizing the chance that they leak and people come in with the answers memorized.

the college board itself makes about 15% profit each year. definitely a lot better than some market segments, but hardly exorbitant. I guess they might find some ways of trimming the fat if they had more competition, but who knows. more competitors means fewer test-takers to amortize the test design costs over.


It needs to be dismantled due to monopoly. I’m not sure how. Those are orthogonal.

What you’re getting at is the government creates these types of monopolies due to massive regulations and licensing.

The issue is not with the college prep companies. It’s with government getting involved in education, making it way more expensive than it should be. The free market will drive prices down, especially in the education market.


What does the government getting involved in education have anything to do with the monopoly power of ETS? MIT is private, ETS's owner is a company. The problem is that MIT accepts only SAT scores - they should be forced to accept other standardized test scores too. That would create an actual market for standardized testing, along with competition and lower prices.

According to the original article, MIT accepts SAT or ACT. I have no idea if SAT is preferred though. It was certainly the default way back when when I was applying to schools.

That's just a duopoly. Gotta have at least 3 - maybe 4.

> College Prep is a giant business that needs to be dismantled. They have a monopoly in this area.

Is there really a single company called "College Prep"?


Is the evidence really that suggestive that college prep makes such a huge difference? I am skeptical, it seemed pretty easy to just study from the blue book.

Probably the biggest way to stop the affluent from taking advantage of the system would be to eliminate school choice.


Bingo. The less objective their evaluations are, the easier it will be to hide the cronyism, bribery, and racial bias. Going to be a lot easier to discriminate against Asian kids when you don’t have to notice their test scores are better than the kids you admitted.

MIT isn't eliminating the SAT. They're not considering SAT subject tests, which are analogous to AP tests (which latter MIT will continue to consider).

today they eliminate SAT subject test, tomorrow MIT will eliminate regulart SAT test

Poor people can’t afford that $20 prep book, and they can’t afford the subject tests either.

I worked in high school but that money went to my family to help pay for food/rent. Thankfully I had an amazing high school teacher who was willing to pay for the remainder on my AP tests (the company who administers the test has a reduced fee option). My SAT test was free though, never got to take a practice test or even knew that there was a practice test —- that’s the joy of being a first generation college graduate, I suppose.

I agree about extra curricular activities. That just signals to colleges that your family is wealthy enough that you can afford to participate in terms of both time and money.


What’s the point in taking SAT Math 2, SAT Chem, and SAT Physics if you’re already sending scores for AP Calc/Stats/Comp Sci, AP Chem, and 3 different AP Physics lmao?

I actually feel silly now for having done that.


SAT scores is heavily correlated with income level (the data I have is for the standard tests, not the subject ones, but I would guess they follow a similar pattern).

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280232788_Race_Pove...

I applaud the MIT decision in this area.


And everything else I mentioned is correlated even more strongly.

Is it? I've heard about the movement to make the SAT optional for years. The argument was that grades correlate with success much more than SAT scores. That SAT scores were how privileged were "gaming the system" because they could afford tutors, can take it multiple times, and appeal for phony disability claims allowing extra test taking time.

I'm all for objective tests, but a single test mostly shows subject knowledge, not necessarily success. When I studied and took them, I always felt like it mostly evaluated standardized test-taking skills (which is a trained skill I feel many smart and successful people lack). It doesn't show anything if people cheat or if the process is gamed.

I don't really have a strong opinion either way--this is just what I've gleaned from following the news over the past few years. Here's an article I found that mirrors what I've heard:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/03/19/is-it-fi...


Personally I feel most standardized tests, including the SAT can be gamed. If you have the right teacher or book or w/e you should be able to learn how to get a certain score. Granted a lot of people simply don't because they never learn the techniques properly.

They should still take it into consideration, but more of as a baseline aptitude level, smart enough to actually get past a certain score, but it shouldn't be a ranking system based on performance on the test. More to weed anyone out who are so incompetent they can't figure out the basics. Like everyone above 75% mark should be considered equally, but people beyond that point aren't ranked based on their test scores. As in, if someone scores a perfect score but the only thing they've done is get good grades and get good test scores and someone else scores at the 75% mark but started a small business, or did something remarkable to help with a disaster, then the latter should take precedence in my book.

After a certain point, IQ doesn't correlate with success either. Too much focus is placed on objective intelligence, when part of the objectivity is how well someone gamed it.


IMHO the SAT is no more objective than an essay, grades in school, or any of the other things you listed.

What is the SAT objectively measuring? Not math. Not logic. Not writing ability. It's objectively measuring the ability to succeed at a timed test which involves some math, some logic, some verbal ability, and knowing how to "test well".

I taught GRE test prep classes for Kaplan for a year or two. What I observed was:

- To do well even the bright folks had to block out time and apply study skills, be organized, and "learn the test." - This means having the time to do those things.

- Time allocated for test prep and study was a better predictor of success than almost anything else.

- Yes, some people who were naturally better at certain things had it easier, but that did not obviate the above.

My conclusion for the GRE at least was that it primarily measured the time available to prepare, the study skills of the student, and the test prep resources the student had access to.


What's "objective" about the SAT is that, at the very least, different people are being made to take the same test. Contrast that with the essay: it looks like the same task (everybody gets 500 words), but for poor kids this task looks like writing an essay, while for rich kids it looks like shopping for the best college counselor to write the essay.

At the very least, given an SAT score, I can know that somebody worked alone for 4 hours with a No. 2 pencil to get it... that's more than any other indicator can guarantee.


The problem of SAT is not that it can be prep'd, but it is too easy to be differentiating, and too simple so people can game it.

By the way, isn't depending on SAT for years and everyone bitching about SAT is a gross failure of our education system? Take any serious test, be it STEM competitions, JEE, or NCEE, multiple-choice questions are the easiest part. The differentiating questions are all kinds of word problems. Yet the US can't afford such test, but countries like India and China can.

And why do people in the US, the most developed and the richest country in the world, complain that people can prep the SAT. It's truly a shame. In countries like China, it is public schools that produce the best students. It is the public schools that set high standards for the country. It is the public schools that come up with amazing text books and problem sets. Tutoring in China is joke. Classes offered by public schools are legendary. Something is wrong in the US.


> By the way, isn't depending on SAT for years and everyone bitching about SAT is a gross failure of our education system? Take any serious test, be it STEM competitions, JEE, or NCEE, multiple-choice questions are the easiest part. The differentiating questions are all kinds of word problems. Yet the US can't afford such test, but countries like India and China can.

We do have this kind of system in place, I'm closely involved in it. The Olympiads in the US basically fill the vacuum of objective assessment at a high level. The entry round for each Olympiad is pretty similar in level to, e.g. what you would get in JEE-Advanced. But they're also far less popular...


Yeah, the Olympiad in the US is well organized. Probably the best in the world. I'm more concerned with the middle tier, to which the majority of the students belong. The best students in the US have access to vast resources, the academically challenged students do not feel the same harsh pressure as kids in other countries do. It is the middle majority that suffer from insufficient training.

It's hard enough such that schools have to lower their SAT standards to accept underrepresented minorities.

Otherwise, for non-URMs, the top schools do agree with you. SAT (and school GPA) are usually used in threshold-y way with other factors mattering more.


I agree with this comment. I grew up in a rural area of the midwest. There were no AP courses, let alone robotics or opportunities for international volunteer work. I worked through high school to help keep the pantry stocked above levels that required some figurin'. I didn't apply for scholarships, didn't think about where I was going or what I was going to do, I was worried about other things. My high standardized test scores got me noticed by schools and names that meant something to me. I might not have ended up at MIT, but standardized tests gave me perspective that it wasn't just that I was "good at school" compared to my rural peers, but that truly I did have a shot at these places.

Because decades of education needed to be at a level for even considering an SAT is a poor mans normal.

SATs are one of the original “My parents bought me a better education.” filters our culture came up with.

You’re just defending what’s normal to you but the same concern has been raised over SATs.

Let’s not pretend you’ve stumbled upon a lynchpin we’d all overlooked.

People bending over to work for money not their own interests has enabled the overall problem you’re highlighting. Yep now there’s a lot of money out there to be used to by our way into shit!

Don’t be naive. You don’t want filters like this you need to rethink your life and who you’re giving your agency to.


I did well on the SATs because there is a method to taking the tests that is agnostic of the underlying knowledge. I was only able to learn that because I could afford the classes. The SAT is a silly game.

In the press release MIT says they are still looking at SAT scores. What they say they stopped looking at is the "SAT subject tests." That's something like the old Achievement Tests.

> mean more advantage for smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected people.

But see it's all okay if those smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected elites are more diverse in race/gender/etc


While I agree on the money aspect, other achievements provide more points of differentiation for top candidates. MIT likely is deciding amongst students with about perfect scores anyway.

I had a bout of diarrhea during my SAT 2 Math (the harder one, whatever it's called) and still scored 780/800. I was a bit annoyed that one question put me down huge percentiles though, because you could miss like 10 questions and still get 800.


If only we could take the pressure off the need for a prestige college admission to guarantee that you won't suffer for decades...

Here's a list of schools that are already "test optional."

https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

I leave it an exercise to the reader to decide if these schools are less egalitarian than (say) the Ivies, MIT or Stanford.


So, over time, MIT researchers decrease in quality, and it loses prestige to other institutions, perhaps overseas, perhaps China.

Instead, I think they will continue to try to evaluate genuine merit. SAT can be and is routinely gamed, through prep. You have to be truly outstanding to manage it alone.


Maybe if money weren't an obstacle for getting a good education, then we could actually have the best and brightest going to schools like these instead of just the most well-prepared because of family money and the advantage that wealth brings.

The SAT is a useful bullshit filter. I graded a physics class in college and the number of students wanting 50%+ credit for a wrong answer "because they tried" was high.

You mean average white middle class kids who have "smooth talking, photogenic, well-connected parents" who can pay for the tutoring?

This is like the old Uk secondary Modern vs Grammar schools - but with the total destruction of the skilled vocational path.

It interesting that if I had staying Birmingham (UK) my mum was keen to use family connections to get me into King Edwards :-)

For those not familiar with the UK education hierarchy its always in the top 3 in the entire UK and was Tolkien's old school - Rich Thickos go to Eaton


IMO, the subject tests are kind of a niche environment. You can't prep for them with the $20 official book and there are like 20 of them. (Also Amazon lists it for 30 but we get the point). You basically need to go to a school where they offer AP coursework, and pay something close to $100 bucks to the College Board to take subject tests.

When I was doing college search, the only college I recall that requested these subject tests was MIT.


note that the SAT subject tests are actually different from AP tests. when I was applying to college, a smart kid from the regular section of <subject> could expect to do fairly well on the SAT subject test for that topic. the AP tests ask questions on material that isn't typically covered in the regular classes, so it's hard to do well on them if you haven't taken the AP course or done a lot of extracurricular study.

TIL. Never took one.

Depends on the AP exam.

The problem with tests like the SAT is that on one hand they produce quantifiable results and the comparison of one student's score to another student's score is indeed objective, but that does not mean the test itself is an objective measure of performance.

The primary fault is that the SAT is essentially a form of convergent IQ test. A convergent test is a test of questions with the accepted answered defined before the test attempt and comparing the test takers answers to the defined answers. This is convergent, or coming together, in that performance is measured against subjective, subject based (inferred acceptance), criteria. I understand the SAT is intended to be used as a measure of general scholarly assessment, but its primarily used as a discriminatory filter to limit access to a preferential segment. As such it is essentially an arbitrary IQ test in practice regardless of its intentions.

In contrast IQ tests more generally preferred by the psychiatric community tend, almost exclusively, are divergent tests. A divergent test has questions without any prior identified answer and so there is not a simple right/wrong conclusion. Instead the tests generally seek out things like abstract reasoning, creativity, reasoning, answer diversity, and other aptitude performance criteria.

In the few psychiatric administered aptitude tests I have taken I generally test a bit below the genius level. If on a numeric IQ scale genius is 150 or 155 I would be below that at 140 to 150 depending on the test and test criteria. The SAT, on the other hand, rated me as outstanding a math and reasoning but otherwise barely literate. Those SAT scores are clearly at odds with my real world performance and other test results.

Confusing the potential for objectivity, such as comparing score results, to actual objectivity, such as whether the scores are a valid measure in the first place is a common error. The most common IQ test is the Stanford-Binet Test formed by Dr. Lewis Terman who made the same error:

* https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beautiful-minds/2009...

* https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-05-31-bk-1247-s...


I'm sure the writers of the SAT are well aware of this, but full IQ tests just don't scale. How are you going to provide the same test ten million times a year, when the test has to be administered one-on-one by a trained professional over the course of hours? You're going to have to hire tens of thousands of administrators, so how are you going to keep bias from creeping in? How are you going to prevent the questions from leaking, or keep people from rehearsing scripts on the subjective parts? IQ tests have never dealt with these problems only because they haven't had to scale, not because they're immune to them.

> I'm sure the writers of the SAT are well aware of this, but full IQ tests just don't scale.

First of all its generally faulty to presume what others are thinking.

Secondly, standardized admissions testing in its current form should be eliminated and there is a fair amount of data to support this[1][2]. If schools really want to discriminate on performance they should test for originality, composition, and decision capacity all of which can be done objectively with automated administration.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2019/12/11/lawsuit-...

[2] http://www.nea.org/home/73288.htm


Sorry, but I write tests and I have absolutely no idea how you propose to measure these things objectively and automatically, without producing exactly the kind of "convergent" test you said you didn't like. For example, take "decision capacity". I don't even know what you mean by that, and I don't know how this will be assessed automatically without fixing a pre-designed correct answer.

Incidentally, the GRE has a system for grading essay composition automatically. It also absolutely sucks. It has no idea what your arguments are actually saying, so points are allocated based on irrelevant features like average sentence length or the total number of paragraphs. Researchers have succeeded in getting perfect scores by just copy-pasting the same sentence 25 times. In my book, this is worse than multiple choice.


For example, take "decision capacity".

For that, there's an "inbox test", a set of incoming messages to be dealt with in order. Such tests are widely used to screen candidates for manager jobs.


Wow, I just learned something new. These look legit and well-matched to the actual work. It does seem hard to make a "standard" decision test though, it seems each would have to be tuned to the job it was made for.

SAT scores are used because they turn out to be good predictors of success at college. They aren't the only measure used, probably about a third.

For example, my SAT scores were average for an MIT admission, but I was rejected.


There is a lot of evidence that this is absolutely not the case. On of my links in a prior comment indicated there are now many universities that are standard test optional and keep stats comparing the performance between standard test students versus other students to find no difference in performance.

Consider your example. You are a famous developer well known for a performance oriented programming language. Of the many computer science students that graduated from MIT I cannot name any who are as well known for such. It is impossible to say that if your SAT scores were closer to perfect you might have gained admission. Regardless you have clearly excelled where others have not regardless of institution or institutional entry. At the least this suggests the incorrect combination of parameters were assessed given real world performance.


My degree is in Aerospace Engineering, not CS :-)

Though I shamefully admit my lack of academic CS knowledge shows its face now and then. I sometimes find myself reinventing the wheel.


I don't entirely understand your objection. the "meat-and-potatoes" skills tested by the SAT seem to be english vocab and algebra. there's certainly some gray area in the meanings of english words, but the examples on the SAT tend to be pretty cut and dry. as for the basic algebra questions, I don't really see how it could make sense for the answer not to be determined beforehand. 5 will always be the x value that make 5x = 25 true.

seems like as good a way as any to predict whether you'll be able to handle the rigor of 100-level courses in your freshman year. basically answers the question: "can you read and understand what we plan to assign?"

edit: out of curiosity I perused some of your other posts. it seems like you have a pretty good grasp of english vocab and sentence construction. I'm not really sure how you could have bombed the critical reading and writing sections.


Exactly. And it's worth reviewing how the so-called holistic admission process came to be: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/10/10/getting-in. TL;DR: it's not pretty.

A process that lacks objectivity will enlarge inequality gap instead of reducing it. And in general, the more complex a process is, the less transparent it becomes, and the harder it is to be fair to everyone.


SAT prep is bullshit that lets rich kids test prep their way up.

SAT prep is largely a scam.

Have kids take the test, mark the score. Do absolutely nothing. Kids take test again and naturally do better.

Be a SAT prep company, do the above but insert yourself between tests and take the credit (and the money).


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