Thursday, November 02, 2006

The SAT Frenzy

One of the most popular and sometimes fear-instilling, acronyms for US high school students is probably SAT. Formerly standing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, SAT is now just, well, SAT, according to College Board, the organization that manages the test. The one-time replacement, the Scholastic Assessment Test, has also fallen out of favor, ostensibly because of the redundancy (when does assessment ends and test begins?). For some reasons, I thought SAT stands for the Scholastic Achievement Test.

Anyway, SAT is akin to the national university entrance exams practiced in other countries such as UK (the Advanced Level exam) except that SAT, specifically SAT1, is only held over the span of a morning while the Advanced Level is a multi-subject exam stretching over days and even weeks. There is another category of subject tests called SAT II that are optional for students who want to demonstrate depth in a particular subject such as science related (Physics, Chemistry, etc.) or arts-related (English literature, US history, etc.). While most universities here require SAT (or the alternate ACT) scores as a yardstick to gage a student’s academic performance, only highly competitive universities would require SAT II scores as well.

The SAT frenzy infiltrates my household too as I have a college bound daughter. This is the second time that has happened as her elder brother went through the whole rigmarole last year. Despite being one-year veterans, I and my wife are handling the matter with more urgency this year as our daughter tends to take things easy and has the habit of cramming her studying in the last few days preceding the test (perhaps taking after her Dad?). Even my brother in Singapore is doing his bits by mailing test books/manuals that he has bought in local book sales to us. But all we can do is now and then hinting to our daughter that the big day is drawing near, and that perhaps she spends less time on online forums until after the test.

The test day came and she emerged kind of jovial when I picked her up after the SAT 1 test. So we felt relieved as she did not do too well the first time around. So there she was at mid-night logging on to the College Board website to check her scores, thinking that 12.01am marks the beginning of a new day (the SAT results are to be announced online on Nov 2). But she was disappointed as the test scores had not been posted yet.

This morning, while brushing her teeth, she realized the reason she was kept up past mid-night and wasted no time in logging on. Her shout of elation, cry of joy, and mirthful expression were more than enough indicators that she has turned the tide this time. And indeed when she proudly announced the scores, it is more than a pleasant surprise.

But we have another reason to be thankful. She will be sitting for 3 SAT II subject tests this weekend, and her joyous mood will help sustain her momentum into performing equally, if not better, in the subject tests.

As I was blogging this away, her characteristically hearty laughter resonated behind me while watching an episode of “Happy Hour”. How apt.

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