Did you know the SAT is not a completely accurate test of raw intelligence? Probably, but now a fourteen-year-old has discovered how to ace the essay section: just write a lot.
According to ABC, Milo Beckman of New York's Stuyvesant High School has already taken the SAT twice. Based on his own experience, he suspected longer essays got better scores, regardless of quality. So he asked 115 of his classmates to write down how many lines their essays took up, and to tell him their eventual scores. Result: the longer essays overwhelmingly did better. Says Beckman: "The probability that such a strong correlation would happen by chance is 10 to the negative 18th. So 00000 …18 zeros and then (an) 18. Which is zero."
First of all, this kid is destined for greatness. Second of all, he's added more proof to what many of us have long suspected: that the SAT (and other standardized tests) include a sizable component of bullshit. Also subscribing to this theory is Les Perelman, director of writing at MIT. He says his research backs up Beckman's findings on length. He also has more tips for gaming the essay section. Here are the two most depressing:
— Memorize a few big words that can easily substitute for commonly used smaller words. For example, never use the word bad. Always choose something like "egregious." Instead of many, choose "plethora" or "myriad." You will increase your score by picking two to three and popping them into your essay somewhere. You can even do this when you are finished; go back over your essay and find the word "many" and switch it.
— End with a quotation. It doesn't even have to be correct. Just quote somebody. It's best to memorize two or three famous quotes and just use one to end the concluding paragraph, even if it doesn't make sense. Even if you can't really remember the quote exactly, still quote the person with whatever you can remember.
The College Board disagrees with Perelman's tips (duh), and says "it's very common for longer writing samples to more effectively convey nuanced, persuasive arguments." Yeah, maybe. But let's face it, SAT scorers have to read a plethora of essays every year, and the idea that they could meticulously evaluate each one for its minute nuances, in the sixty seconds they allegedly spend reading it, is patently ludicrous. Because, as Neil Armstrong said, "I am the walrus."
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