Somebody ought to get a bunch of bloggers together, and give them the writing SAT under timed conditions, and see what they come up with.
I took Chad up on the challenge, and together we created the Blogger SAT Challenge, giving writers from across the blogosphere the chance to show that they can do better than high school students. How did they do?
Well, 500 people looked at the essay question, but just 109 were able to complete a scoreable response under the time limit. That alone should demonstrate that the SAT challenge was no easy task. But what about the responses? Can seasoned bloggers do better than high schoolers?
We sent the essays, with the identities of the writers concealed, to 6 volunteer graders with experience teaching college writing or working for an SAT prep service. Each essay was graded by two different people. For the real SAT, the scores (on a scale of 0 to 6) would simply be added together, but we also want to know what blog readers think of the essays. So we created a single composite score based on the two grades by averaging the scores and rounding up: 4 and 5 would average to 5, while 3 and 5 would result in a final score of 4.
Now you get to rate the essays on the same scale: Chad and I — with a little help from some friends who actually know how to code — have designed a site which presents each of the essays and lets you score them yourself. You can then see the score the essay was given by our professional volunteers. The site is live now, and you can visit it here. We only ask that you rate at least 10 of the essays, using the “Random Entry” feature, so that eventually all of the essays get rated.
If you wrote an essay, you can seach for it and claim it by linking to it from your blog, or by writing a comment below your entry. You’ll even find a badge with your score which you can post anywhere you’ve got password access. Send your friends over to rate your entry and those of your competitors. It’s completely unscientific, but it’s also the way of the Web, and we want to know how Web readers respond to the essays. Your entry will remain anonymous until you claim it, so if you’re not pleased with the result, you can slink quietly away and no one will be the wiser.
There will be much more analysis of the scoring in the days to come, but I did want to give you a taste of the results. The average score was 2.9. When put into SAT form (adding the grades, rather than averaging them), the average was just 5.32, which compares rather unfavorably to the average high schooler’s score: 7.2. The median grade was 3, and here’s how the scores broke down:
As you can see, nearly everyone scored a 2, 3, or 4. There were just 21 5s or 1s, and only one score of 6. Even the 6 isn’t SAT-perfect, because it was composed of one 5 and one 6. In the real SAT, less than 1 percent of students scored a perfect 12; in our test, no one did. The initial goal of our test was to compare the best high schoolers’ writing — tests scoring a perfect 12, with the best bloggers can do. In a future post, I’ll take a closer look at the essays in our test that scored the highest.
For now, I invite you to read them yourself; then let us know what you think, either in the comments below each essay, or here in CogDaily’s comments section.