Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rolling boxcars on the SAT essay

The essay section of the SAT essay is scored by two readers, each of whom grades on a scale from 1 to 6. So you're aiming for two sixes -- boxcars in dice-throwing terminology.
In the story linked here, Tamar Lewin of The New York Times shows that you don't need to be perfect, or even have perfect spelling, to get a 6.
One kid got a 6 even though he quoted from the musical Cats, which might earn an automatic 1 from some graders. Another did such a good job discussing Elie Wiesel's Night that the graders forgave his misspelling of "hindrance."
West High School English teacher Shannon Jackson, who grades AP essays, says that, indeed, graders are supposed to think of the esays as drafts, because of course that's what they are. So you truly can get a perfect 6 without being perfect.

WHAT PRACTICE MADE? Misspellings are no “hinderance” to a perfect score on the SAT essay. Scorers looked for “clear and consistent mastery” in areas like critical thinking. They found it, apparently, in these essays, whose opening words are shown. Students were asked, “Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?”


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