SAT Challenge: My Entry

So, how did I score in the Blogger SAT Challenge? (Because this is all about me, after all…)

Here’s my entry. I’m not terribly proud of it, but it got a score of 4 from the graders. Looking more closely, one grader generously gave it a 5/6, while the other gave it a 3/6, presumably because it didn’t have a clear enough argument.

All in all, I think that’s fair. It wanders around a bit, and equivocates about whether to agree or disagree with the quote. Reading it, you pretty much get to see my thought processes while writing it– I stared at the question for a minute or two, then started re-stating the question in hopes that that would jar something loose, and then I basically wrote any damn fool thing that came into my head, because I was starting to feel short on time.

I’m not sure I’d do a whole lot better writing without a time limit, though. I really don’t like the question very much, and I don’t strongly agree or disagree with the quote. On the one hand, Washington has a point, but it’s kind of a cheap and facile point, so I’m not terribly enthusiastic about it. I could go either way with it, which is why I ended up writing an equivocating essay.

And, let’s face it, I’m an academic, at a liberal arts college, no less. Equivocating is what I do.

Interestingly, I was one of seven people to use George Bush as an example, but the only one to cite Bill Clinton as an example (based on the incredibly scientific process of searching the Challenge blog for “Bush” and “Clinton”). I’m not sure what I think of those numbers– given that a great deal of our traffic came from Calpundit Monthly, it’s probably not surprising that people opted to take shots at Dubyah, but I’m a little surprised that no-one else brought up Slick Willie.

Anyway, that’s my entry. If you’ve found yours, and want to talk about it, I’d be interested to hear other people’s reactions in the comments.


  1. #1 Dr. Free-Ride
    October 2, 2006

    I got a 4 as well. I blame philosophy: I’m not going to pretend I have an unequivocal point of view on a question that people have struggled with over the course of long and distinguished philosophical careers.

    Which just goes to show: high school and its milieu are more interested in training people to follow directions than in helping them recognize real complexity.

  2. #2 Elisa
    October 2, 2006

    Please understand that a “4” is a very good score. It means that you understood the prompt, took a position, and supported it. There is a chasm between scores of 3 and 4, but only a small difference among 4, 5 and 6.

  3. #3 John Novak
    October 2, 2006

    Ah, I didn’t know that you could see the individual grades until you pointed it out– that actually makes me feel better, now, because one judge really liked my essay while one just really hated it. (My numbers were farther apart than yours, and ended up being middling average.)

    I didn’t equivocate, which is my usual style in these stupid sorts of essays. I noodled around for a bit, generally attacking the question, then cleaned it up, tightened the logic, and wrote the first and last paragraphs. (I realized in the course of the essay that in this case, attacking the question meant that I disagreed not only with the question, but with the statement that generated it, and so instead of equivocating I came out against the statement.)

    It does show the subjectivity of the whole thing, though, when one essay can get a strongly bimodal response from two judges.

  4. #4 Matt Klossner
    October 2, 2006

    I’m wondering whether the graders saw straight through your essay, and recognized your own “jumped up hillbilly” upbringing.

  5. #5 Chad Orzel
    October 2, 2006

    John: Ah, I didn’t know that you could see the individual grades until you pointed it out– that actually makes me feel better, now, because one judge really liked my essay while one just really hated it.

    I wasn’t aware that you could, actually. I looked at mine in the master score file. Are the individual scores on the pages somewhere?

    Matt: I’m wondering whether the graders saw straight through your essay, and recognized your own “jumped up hillbilly” upbringing.

    Hey, man, I was in the upscale, gentrified part of the Greater Lisle Metropolitan Area. My upbringing was positively suburban by hillbilly standards…

  6. #6 Mike Kozlowski
    October 2, 2006

    Your essay definitely fits into that rambling blogger mode that they were talking about. Whatever happened to thesis, support, support, support, conclusion?

  7. #7 John Novak
    October 2, 2006

    I may have been confusing the public response (which is viewable as a histogram) and the expert response, actually.

  8. #8 Nick Schumacher
    October 2, 2006

    I got a 4 and a 5, making my essay score a 9 out of 12. It seems most people I talked to, even those I considered smarter than I, got about the same grade as I did. Oddly enough, I did better on the writing section that either one of my other sections, even though I would usually do much better on the math when I would take the practice tests. Of course, I learn this summer that my early decision college doesn’t look at the writing score because they “haven’t evaluated it” yet. All that hard work for nothing…

  9. #9 Nick Schumacher
    October 2, 2006

    Oh, and yeah, I guess I just lost the entire point of the request, because I was talking about the real SAT. Woops.

  10. #10 Thomas
    October 4, 2006

    The fact that that essay could receive even one score of 3 suggests the bar was set too high. That essay very successfully selects examples that appear to support Washington’s position and debunks each of them in turn. It does have a strong thesis: that respect tracks absolute achievement, not relative acheivement. However, it very persuasively holds that thesis until near the end so that the reader has already come to that conclusion on his own before the writer asserts it.

    I question a system that rates this essay at 8/12. Had an SAT grader encountered this writing from a high school student, I suspect that the score would have been higher.

  11. #11 Sam Jackson
    November 29, 2006

    I got a 12 and then a 10, but the second time around I ended with an 800 writing since I had all the multiple choice perfect, so… yeah. Essay still introduces more noise into the scoring equation by increasing the width of score ranges. Blah blah blah, college board is profit-hungry evil monster, etc.

  12. #12 Aliothsan
    December 3, 2006

    If you scored only 8 of 12, and I got 11 of 12 (on the actual test) by selling my soul to the formulaic approach…that makes me very glad that college admissions people weigh criteria other than test scores. (Reconciling that with all the bitching I’ve done about college-application essays is left as an exercise for the reader.)

  13. #13 Abby
    December 4, 2006

    I got an 8 on the actual SAT essay when I took it, but scored an 11 on the ACT’s. I didn’t like the questions on the SAT- I don’t prefer that test at all.

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