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Sample English Placement Examination II

Testing Center

This is a sample only. This topic will not be used on the actual Placement Examination.

Read the following editorial and write a single essay in response to the instructions that follow the editorial.

Too much Hinges on This Test
by Eugene E. Garcia

The weight of the SAT in determining who goes to college has swelled so much that it is actually blocking the admission door. In selective institutions like the University of California, it has grown to half the basis for choosing whom to admit. No wonder students and their parents find the admissions process traumatizing.

Think of it: One luckless Saturday morning spent squirming with the SAT can cancel four years of hard work (not to mention the efforts of many dedicated teachers). The SAT measures aptitude, not achievement. It is not tied to curriculum or state educational standards that students must master. That’s one reason the SAT doesn’t effectively predict future success in college and only marginally predicts freshman GPA.

The heavy reliance on the SAT stretches the test beyond the range of predictability, reliability and validity for which it was designed. The SAT cannot predict the difference between two students’ freshman GPAs unless their combined scores vary by at least 120 points. Yet admissions decisions can turn on a few SAT points. And coaching can alter the results--students can substantially raise their scores by taking costly preparatory courses, courses that poor students just can’t afford.

Women, in general, score 45 points lower than men, but they get higher first-year college grades. African Americans and Latinos scores worse than whites and Asians. It is no surprise that underrepresented students may fear taking the test--which in itself may contribute to the continued cycle of low scores.

Worse, students’ fears may dissuade them from following a college trajectory. Take, for example, the high school daughter of migrant parents who had received A’s in honors courses, earned a 3.94 GPA, won state awards for dancing and served as a school officer. But she scored low on the SAT and was so devastated that she wrote to me asking if she should even apply to the University of California. Undoubtedly, there are many like her who question their self--worth after such an experience.

Are there less traumatic alternatives--even if inconvenient for admissions committees? Yes. They could admit the highest-ranked students from each high school based on GPA, scores on achievement tests that are standards based and by weighting portfolios, community service and other indicators of merit.

All of these are better than giving such sway to the SAT in what is a critical decision for an aspiring student. It’s time to relax the SAT’s grip.

Write an essay in which you agree or disagree with Garcia’s position on the SAT’s. In your own words, explain Garcia’s argument. Then go on to support your own argument with specific evidence and examples from the reading and from your own experience.