How to sleep ... er, breeze through the SATs

October 12, 1997|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,Knight-Ridder News Service

OK, HIGH-SCHOOL students: I want you to stop piercing your noses for a moment and listen to me, because I'm going to talk to you about a topic that is more important to your future than anything else except flossing -- your SATs.

It is unfortunate that these tests cause some of you to experience great stress -- or, as you say in your own teen-age lingo, "make a cow." You believe that if you get a low SAT score, you're a dope, and you'll have to attend some third-rate college where the classrooms have wheels and the athletic teams have a nickname like "The Fighting Tarpaulins," and you'll wind up in some boring dead-end loser job such as rag picker or leech monger or Whitewater investigator.

This is incorrect, young people! A low SAT score does not automatically mean failure! Remember that Charles Lindbergh got only 240 on his verbal, and he went on to invent the phonograph. And if that's not inspirational enough, let me tell you a little story about a young man who took his first SAT and did very poorly. His parents were disappointed; his friends laughed at him; his dog went to the bathroom on his feet. But that young man did not give up. He signed up to take the SAT again, and he prepared by getting up every day at 3: 30 a.m. to study, and when the time came to take the second SAT, he walked into that testing room and set an American record -- which will probably never be broken -- for falling asleep. Today he makes his living wearing ill-fitting pants and serving contaminated hamburger to the public.

The point, young people, is that there is a right way and a wrong way to prepare for your SATs, and unless you are even more stupid than you look, you want to do it the right way. To help you, I would like to present the following list of "Common Questions and Answers About the SAT," which was prepared by the American Association of High School Educational Professionals Hiding Out in the Lounge.

What is the SAT?

The term "SAT" is a set of initials, or "antonym," standing for "Scholastic Attitude Treaty Organization." This is a series of tests that predict your ability to perform in the college environment by measuring the degree to which you possess knowledge that nobody would ever in a million years actually need.

What is the origin of the SAT?

The SAT was developed by the prestigious Educational Testing Service, which is located in Princeton, N.J., home of Harvard University. The original idea behind the SATs, as stated in the E.T.S.'s Official Historical Statement of Goals and Purposes, was "to sell a huge quantity of No. 2 pencils that we ordered by mistake." So the E.T.S. invented a standardized test wherein high-school students were required to fill in circles on an answer sheet. The first SATs had no questions: Your score was based entirely on how many circles you filled in, and you could get extra credit by writing on your desk. When colleges complained that too many students were getting high scores, the E.T.S. introduced questions, mostly on topics of interest to E.T.S. personnel, such as "Where can you get decent Chinese food in the Princeton, N.J., area?" Today, the questions are developed by a prestigious team of world-renowned academic experts, who get them from "Jeopardy!"

Does the SAT ever contain errors?

Yes. Just last year, for example, an alert Michigan youngster named Jeremy Winklehopper received national attention when he noticed that, contrary to what he had learned in physics class, the SAT defined "gravity" as "a type of snake."

What happened when this was brought to the attention of the Educational Testing Service?

Everybody enjoyed a hearty laugh, and then Jeremy's score was changed to minus 46,000 points, thus assuring that no college would ever accept him. He is currently employed in the field of urinal maintenance.

Was the SAT definition of "gravity" changed?

Yes. It is now defined as "a heavy type of snake."

What should I do if I don't know the answer to a multiple-choice SAT question?

Experts suggest that you start by "weeding out" the answers that are obviously false. Some of the telltale signs to look for are:

* The answer contains swear words.

* The answer is followed by a little sarcastic note in parenthesis such as, "Oh, sure, THAT makes sense."

* The answer contains the phrase "according to a White House spokesman."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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