College Board takes unfair approach to grading essay


The College Board graders simply scan for key words, not content.

By Yash Nigam, Production Editor

The SAT is one of the main factors that affect the college admissions of nearly 2 million students yearly. However, College Board, the creator and sole administrator of the test, unfairly and hastily grades the essay portion, which often puts deserving students at a disadvantage and rewards those who performed poorly.

Recent exposure of College Board’s grading methods reveal its actions to be in complete contrast with its mission statement of promoting “excellence and equity in education.”

According to a 2013 Slate Magazine article, College Board’s process of grading essays is extremely profit-driven and encourages grading efficiency over honest evaluation.

For instance, graders are removed if they spend more than three minutes per essay. According to a 2005 New York Times article, College Board has offered bonuses to evaluators who grade in two minutes or less. Such a grading procedure is not expected from an organization that brands itself as “not-for-profit.” The lust for profit has infected College Board as well, and has rendered improving America’s education a non-essential objective for the organization.

Additionally, the time-constraint forced upon graders has made the grading criteria full of false indicators that evaluators use to determine whether the writer understood the prompt and delivered a fair analysis. While skimming, graders look for essay length and use of SAT words regardless of whether the context was appropriate. Furthermore, College Board does not value the factual accuracy of the essay. Historical references, scientific facts and even words, can be altered or fabricated to suit the writer’s intent.

College Board has reduced writing, an area full of interpretation and subjectivity, to a list of keywords. Regardless of the flaws associated with the SAT essay and College Boards’ unethical grading procedures, students must learn to adapt to College Board’s new set of standards to score well.

The following are some tips from the Slate article to ace the essay portion:

Fill up all the given space. On the SAT essay, quantity is given priority over quality.   Use complicated words even if you are unaware of their exact meanings. For example, never use “many,” use “a myriad.”

Do not waste time trying to recollect facts. Make them up to suit the essay because College Board does not care whether you were honest in your assertions or clung to the facts.   Without question, following these strategies will produce bad writing.  However, students are likely to obtain higher scores on the essay section by adhering to these tips.    According to CHS College Career Counselor Luana Zimmerman, the strategies for the SAT writing component “should remain there and the principles of good writing should be used at all other times.”

Despite news coverage of College Board’s unethical grading procedures, College Board maintains that its graders spend an appropriate amount of time on each essay.

In an email, College Board Associate Director of Communications Katherine Levin wrote that the “SAT cannot be gamed by simply adding big words, more words or more paragraphs.”

Though College Board has not admitted the essay component’s flaws, it agrees that the essay warrants a revamp. College Board will reveal the new format in early 2014, which, hopefully, will be more objective and structured than the essay’s current format.