The past few weeks have found me assisting some of the seniors from work study for the SAT. It’s been awhile since I sat for the exam, which has made the attempts to help the students improve their skills and scores challenging. Especially when it comes to writing.
See, the new (as it will be forever as far as I’m concerned) SAT exam includes an essay portion. Because the exam wasn’t stressful enough, the administrators opted to add one of the most stressful educational experiences – the time essay. In an effort to add insult to injury, they set the essay time to 25 minutes. For every part of the essay, including reading the prompt.
So the other day I wrote an essay in the time allotted answering an exam question.
I was pretty sure, when the students I was working with challenged me, that I could manage writing an essay in the miniscule time set. I haven’t had to write such a detailed essay since high school, but I’ve kept up with my writing. So I went home and sat down to meet their challenge. After a 30 minute search of the house for college ruled notebook paper. (it’s amazing what staples for life disappear when your focus changes)
After setting my phone alarm to chime when the allotted time had elapsed, I began the process of answering the question. I used the entire time, but I completed my 5 paragraph, basic essay! I had to keep track of the time so as not to run out, but other than that, the whole experience wasn’t terrible. I’m out of practice, but my other writing skills kicked in to help compensate for the deficits. Keeping my thesis in mind while I wrote so that I would cut down on editing time at the end proved more difficult than I remembered. This could also be due to the fact that I kept wanting to make the essay argument more complicated. I was a little surprised at how quickly everything about hyper-timed writing came back to me.
What I remain unclear on is how the SAT creators expect students who are not versed in the field of English and lacking in college experience to succeed. Especially if those students are not prepared through school and lack the resources to afford help.
I felt like I succeeded in my task, but the students still haven’t read and evaluated my essay. They’ve had help learning the SAT system, so I am deferring to their expertise in this matter. I’ll have to post how that conversation goes and what they decide to give me.