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SAT Scrubs Analogies

August 02, 2003

Re "College Board Scores With Critics of SAT Analogies," July 27: While I agree that the verbal section of the SAT is culturally biased, I disagree that replacing the analogy section with a writing section is fair. As an immigrant who was educated in a Detroit public school, I would agree with Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing that I would not have known what a regatta was when I was in high school.

However, all the other words in the sample question should be known by anyone who is planning on attending college and, therefore, the right answer can be derived by the process of elimination and some analytical thinking. It would be easier for a disadvantaged student to improve on the analogy section by studying vocabulary on his or her own than it would be to become a better writer in a short time without the help of an outstanding teacher.

Although writing is important, analytical thinking is critical in many professions where the answer is not always obvious right away. For example, a physician may come up with the diagnosis by eliminating similar but wrong choices. The SAT verbal section should be given in English and a second language of the student's choice. This would help bilingual students and would force native English speakers to become fluent in a second language. I believe it would help the country in the global economy in the future.

Shiu Man Lee

Camarillo

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I am a high school student who recently took the SAT test. There is a simple fact that everyone needs to come to grips with: In general, students with excellent reasoning skills and large vocabularies will score well on the analogies section of the SAT, while students with poor vocabularies and poor reasoning skills will score lower. So what's the problem? Students who get tripped up by the loose association between witches and vampires do not deserve a high score on the SAT.

Travis Weinger

Marina del Rey

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Kudos to the University of California regents who voted to eliminate the verbal analogies from the SAT. After all, how can anyone who has never seen one be expected to know what a regatta is? Also, consider reducing the amount and difficulty of reading that students are assigned. Eliminate those writers from distant times and climes so that the students can concentrate on reading stuff about, you know, people like them.

An added bonus for those assigned to read prospective students' essays is that the task should become increasingly less burdensome. They will be simple in word and thought, for how can people who have been encouraged to stick to simple words have anything but simple thoughts? Well done, regents.

Howard L. Safier

Los Angeles

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As a teacher of some 30 years (most of it in a fifth-grade classroom), I was dismayed to read your article about the UC regents' plan to discontinue the analogy section of the SAT.

Since similar types of questions appear on standardized tests for elementary students, I teach my students methods for understanding and analyzing such questions. These methods include comparing parts of speech, noticing the order of each pair, creating a sentence to test the pair for compatibility, eliminating illogical answers and breaking down unfamiliar words by prefix, suffix and root. I also teach the students to look out for trick questions.

This exercise is of great benefit to the students, teaching them strategies that they can use to make sense of complex texts and to develop their understanding of concepts and complex ideas. Certainly, testing these skills to evaluate which students might successfully meet the rigorous demands of a university curriculum makes good sense. Now, more than ever, we need leaders who can comprehend nuances of meaning and shades of gray in our complex world.

Suzanne Stein

West Los Angeles

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The objections to the cultural questions on the SAT tests are a big problem. The problem is not that students are tested in regard to understanding words like "regatta," "pirouette" or "lummox." The problem is that some argue that students should be tested only in the very limited context of what everyone could minimally know. It has come to my attention (through Diane Ravitch's book "The Language Police" and my own observations) that we don't want to test children in landlocked states about references to the coast or the beach and that we cannot include references to mice or even the word "mice" because children might be scared.... What?

We need to raise the bar and teach to reach. We want children to read about areas and people they don't know anything about so that they ask questions and read further. Stop dumbing down, stop lowering standards and start encouraging learning.

It's all well and good to claim that students ought not be memorizing lists of words but reading Dickens instead; but are the people critical of the tests taking the time to look at the bias and sensitivity committees' "not to use" book lists?

Jeannette Webber

Rolling Hills Estates

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