SAT tests younger and younger

Gracie Hays
A & E Editor

The competition for college that traditionally begins in junior or senior year of high school has students preparing at increasingly younger ages with a rising emphasis on standardized testing both in and out of school.

In most independent elementary schools, it’s rare to find a child that has taken no prep work of any kind for the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) or HSPT (High School Placement Test). CES 8th grader Lea Russel is currently preparing for the SSAT with a private tutor and has already semi-prepared for the distant SAT.

“I took the SAT with a few friends because we were applying for a summer program at John Hopkins and that was a requirement,” said Russel. “Taking the SAT as a 7th grader was really hard. I was really nervous and wasn’t looking forward to taking it at all.”

There has been an upward trend in the standardized test preparations.

“More people are getting test prep in general,” said Ivy West tutor Irena Kuo. “I’ve had many, many students in the last three years, probably upwards of 100, since I also teach classrooms. Parents are usually more willing to spend money on things like education for their children, and it’s beginning to start earlier and earlier, i.e., middle school with the SSAT.”

Though there is a focus on achieving high scores for high school applications, high scores is not the only factor that will get a child into high school.

“A full file for an applicant includes personal information and essays, recommendations from teachers, transcripts, and testing,” said CSH Admissions Director Caitlin Curran. “The SSAT, like the HSPT, is just one piece of information we gather during the application process. There is no one piece of information that is more important or given more weight when reading an applicant’s file, though each piece does have its own importance for providing information and as complete of a view as possible of an applicant.”

Aside from serving as a tool for high school admissions, testing in younger kids is believed to benefit a school’s curriculum as well as a child’s learning experience.

“The test results impact is on the curriculum,” said CES Educational Therapist Donna Hamilton. “Tests allow the administration to look closely at the curriculum and see what areas may or may not need some minor adjustments. Standardized tests also give students the opportunity to practice managing their time and nerves in a pressured situation while taking one of the most demanding standardized tests developed for their specific age group.”

Even after extensive training, middle school students still dread the test and would rather not take it.

“If [the SSAT] became optional I wouldn’t take it because it’s just way too much pressure,” said Russel.

Often times, so much stress and pressure are put on young kids to produce high results that they cannot perform at their highest potential.

“I was so nervous before taking the SSAT that I threw up and had to take it at another time,” said senior Grace Milligan. “The second time I took it I wasn’t quite as nervous, but I still remember freezing up in certain sections.”

Despite a high level of pressure, the standardized testing system in the United States is not considered to be as rigorous as it is in many other countries where success on the test often determines the quality of life to come.

“I think whether taking a scored standardized test is a positive or negative experience depends on the parents and teacher,” said Kuo. “Standardized tests can destroy a student’s self-esteem, but if you put it in proper perspective it really isn’t that bad. The entrance exams in Asia have a much heavier impact on the student’s lives when you compare them to the tests here [in the United States].”