There's a fascinating conversation in the comments of this post on Kitchen Table Math about whether or not our schools are properly preparing students for the SAT. The College Board says a "rigorous curriculum" is the best way to prepare for the test.
A commenter named Bonnie thought the test was easy when she took it and wonders whether it's changed:
I have to ask this question again - when did the SAT (and PSAT) get so hard? I took the PSAT without even knowing what it was about, and ended up a National Merit Scholar based on that score. I took the SAT as a senior and had a 720 on the math (780 verbal) with no test prep. My husband made that magic 800 mark, again, no test prep. We both went to really bad high schools that taught significantly less that the schools teach today. This was in the late 70's. Did something happen to the SATs? I need to know because I had just assumed my kids would do fine on it, as I did.
Experienced tutor and author of forthcoming SAT Grammar book, Erica Meltzer chimes in:
I have the impression that the overall level has stayed pretty stable for quite a while.
I keep coming back to this quote I found from a 2004 New York Times article, where John Katzman, founder of the Princeton Review, says:
"Fundamentally, the whole SAT is a middle-school test..."
Did he say really say 'middle-school?'
Here's a passage from the College Board's online course:
Does that seem "middle-school" level to you? Even Erica Meltzer found this one challenging, but offers a great way to solve it in this post:
What does the author say about Aunt Sylvie's pronunciation in line 4? That she gave the word "evening" three syllables: e-ven-ing. That's it, the only information we have to go on.
Now, literally, "evening" of course means "the time when it gets dark out," but when used as a verb (ok, technically a gerund), it means "to make even," literally "to smooth" (as the author states in line 5) or to remove inconsistencies from a surface. In other words, the word "evening" has two meanings, and the author calls attention to Aunt Sylvie's pronunciation in order to call attention to (highlight) that fact.
The answer must therefore be B.
I don't know too many middle-schoolers who could do that! And if there is in fact a middle-school that is preparing kids for this kind of reading, please point me their way as I'd love to know what they are doing.
Incidentally, I thought this passage/question was very hard and got both questions wrong.
llustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis