January 06, 2007

How I Beat the SATs

I'm just now finishing up the college application process, I have but one more form to send in before I am completely done. In circumstances such as these, one tends to reminisce about all of the hurdles, pitfalls, and successes that it has taken to get this far. While doing this, I remembered a particularly exciting experience I had after taking the SATs in 2006. I present to you, my esteemed reader,

In May of 2006 I took the SAT I: Reasoning Test. I had taken it several times before and was accustomed to how it was supposed to work. Fairly early on in the test, section 2, I arrived at a problem that was unsolvable. No, it wasn't just hard, it literally couldn't be solved, two answers would have worked. I sat there, pondering, wondering what to do. Should I leave it blank or should I guess one of the two answers? In the past, when it came to decisions like this, I always choose the decision that would let me argue for my case later on. Leaving the question blank gives you no chance of getting it right, but by answering at least one of the correct answers, you can make a case later about how you answered it correctly if it was marked wrong. So, I chose an answer. I can't remember which, it was either A or D, but that doesn't matter.

When I got home I immediately went on to the CollegeBoard website to file a concern about the question. I used one of their "Contact Us!" forms on their site, and this is what I sent:

Hello, I know that I'm supposed to voice concerns about particular questions soon after the test but I'm not sure if there is a specific form to fill out. I took the SAT I: Reasoning test today and came across a question that appeared to have more than one answer. It was in section two (the writing section) and was number 24. Either section A or D could have been changed to make the sentence correct. If you could please either help me understand what happened or forward this query on to whomever it may concern it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time!
-Michael Snively

2 days later, on the 9th, I got an e-mail in reply. What did it say?

Thank you for contacting us through collegeboard.com.Your feedback is vital! If you believe that there is an error or ambiguity in a question on the test you took, we want to hear about it. Contact us by e-mail, fax, or express mail. If you believe there is an error or ambiguity in a test question, continue testing. Report the problem to the supervisor later on test day, then e-mail or write to us. Include the test name and date, test section, test question (as well as you can remember it), and an explanation of your concern.

*We must receive your letter, fax, or e-mail by the Wednesday after the test date.

In your letter, include:

Your full name
Mailing address
Birth date
Social security number (if applicable)
Registration number
Test name and date
Test center name, number and address
Test section
Test question (as well as you can remember it)
An explanation of your concern
Your signature

ETS will send you a response after our subject-matter specialists have reviewed the question.

So I followed the instructions and sent off a return e-mail. I would like to take this opportunity to note that during the test, they threaten you with pain of death for removing test materials or notes about test questions from the room. How then, is it possible, to remember the test question with any degree of accuracy, including the section? I admit, I wrote down the section, question number, and important details and snuck it out of the testing room, sorry CollegeBoard!

Here's what I sent back:

Your full name: Michael Snively
Mailing address: [omitted from blog for obvious reasons]
Sex: Male
Birth date: 9/30/1988
Social security number (if applicable): [omitted from blog for obvious reasons]
Registration number: [omitted from blog for obvious reasons]
Test name and date: SAT I: Reasoning Test :: 5/6/2006
Test center name, number and address: West Salem High School (381056)
Salem OR
Test section: Section 2, writing
Test question (as well as you can remember it):
It was a grammar and usage question with various parts of the sentence underlined. I believe it had to do with latin music or something of that nature. The first word was "should" I believe.
An explanation of your concern:
The goal of the question was to correct the grammar of the sentence. After reading the sentence I immediately noticed that there was a disagreement with tense. Unfortunately, the only two parts of the sentence that indicated tense were both underlined. Both the first word, underlined portion (A), and later on in the sentence, underlined portion (D), could have been changed to fix the tense in the sentence. For underlined portion (A), the word "should" could have been changed to "had" while leaving underlined portion (D) unchanged. Similarly, underlined portion (D) could have changed tense while leaving portion (A) unchanged.
Your signature: Michael Snively

For the actual e-mails, click here. It's much easier to read than this blog post. The original e-mail is at the bottom and works its way up, just like a blog.

That's the last I heard from CollegeBoard. I received no follow up e-mail or anything.

Several weeks later I received my score report and was SHOCKED to see what I did. Here's what I saw when I flipped to section 2:

Question 24 didn't count towards my score?!?!? I'd taken the SATs a lot and never had I seen this! Hm, well, time to check my score report!

Sure enough, a little "X" on question number 24!

There you have it folks! I found a question that couldn't be answered and successfully had it removed from the test, making it easier to get a better score. You're welcome SAT takers!


Molly said...

I should have done that on the stupid psat question about the cars in the parking lot...you told me it wasnt possible therefore it is impossible...dang it.

margaret said...

I am eternally grateful.

Greg said...

*while bowing* I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.

Vishaque said...

Voila. That’s what I have always loved to do. LOL. Telling the question wrong, if I could not find an answer! LOL Again.

Anyway... it was brilliant.
Not your finding that the question is wrong, but their acceptance. LOL.* Oops I spilled my tea*

somebody said...